Honda fires Japan into World Cup

Updated 05 June 2013
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Honda fires Japan into World Cup

SAITAMA, Japan: Keisuke Honda fired Japan into the 2014 World Cup yesterday with a dramatic injury-time penalty which salvaged a 1-1 draw with Australia and made them the first team to qualify alongside hosts Brazil.
Tommy Oar’s fortuitous late strike had looked set to condemn the hosts to an undeserved defeat. But after Matthew McKay handled in the box, Honda drove his spot-kick straight down the middle to earn the necessary point.
The result left the Asian champions seven points clear and uncatchable in Group B, putting them through to their fifth straight World Cup. It is the first time they have sealed qualification on home soil.
“I was nervous. I tried to hit the shot to the center,” said Honda. “If it was saved, there was nothing I could do about it.” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who joined Japan after the 2010 World Cup, said his attractive Blue Samurai side would “surprise the world” at next year’s tournament in Brazil.
“I came to Japan to bring them to the World Cup — that was my bottom line,” said the Italian. “I feel relieved that I achieved it. We are going to improve further and surprise the world.” Holger Osieck’s Australia meanwhile will be glad of the point away from home as they scrap with Jordan, Oman and Iraq for the second automatic qualifying spot. The third-placed team will go into a play-off.
Japan had the better of a highly entertaining first half, which saw chances fly thick and fast and heroic saves at both ends of the pitch.
Yasuhito Endo’s dipping free kick curled past the upright early on, and the Gamba Osaka midfielder then fired over the bar after a slick move orchestrated by Honda and Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa.
The same trio combined for another neat exchange, which drew a one-handed reaction stop from Australia’s Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to deny Kagawa from close range.
At the other end Brett Holman dragged a shot wide, New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill volleyed over and Japan’s Eiji Kawashima had to come sharply off his line after Robbie Kruse was put through one-on-one.
Kagawa and Honda continued to torment the Socceroos after the break and they nearly broke the deadlock on 55 minutes when the Manchester United man’s stabbed, defense-flummoxing cross was poked wide by his bleach-blond team-mate.
Kagawa, operating on the left, was denied by hard-working Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski and then bounced a shot off the angle between the right post and the crossbar.
Zaccheroni brought on defender Yuzo Kurihara as a stalemate beckoned. But shortly afterwards, Oar silenced the massed Japanese fans when his cross from the left spun over Kawashima and crept in on 82 minutes.
Japan were staring at a cruel defeat but as the clock ticked to full time, Honda’s cross was parried by McKay’s arm. The blond CSKA Moscow talisman stepped up to ram the penalty past Schwarzer, who dived to his left.
“I think we performed better. We deserved a win. But as usual, something unexpected happened. But my players had a strong feeling to fight back,” said Zaccheroni.
Japan are now through to their fifth straight World Cup since making their debut in 1998, and with a high-quality side which will look to build on their run to the last 16 four years ago in South Africa.

Australia have two games left to make sure of reaching their third World Cup in a row. The Socceroos, now level on points with second-placed Jordan, host the desert kingdom next week followed by Iraq on June 18.


Profligate Arsenal punished by 10-man Atletico Madrid

The gunners could not defeat 10-man Atletico Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Profligate Arsenal punished by 10-man Atletico Madrid

  • The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes
  • Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week

LONDON: Arsenal’s hopes of sending outgoing manager Arsene Wenger off with a trophy suffered a major blow as they could only draw 1-1 with 10-man Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday.
The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, with Sime Vrsaljko’s early red card handing them the initiative.
However, they were made to rue a host of missed chances before and after Alexandre Lacazette headed them in front on the hour mark.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone was also sent to the stands shortly after Vrsaljko’s dismissal, but the Spaniards resisted manfully and pounced when their chance came as Antoine Griezmann prodded home a vital away goal eight minutes from time.
Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week if Wenger’s last game in charge is to be the final in his homeland in Lyon on May 16.
Moreover, Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League football next season also hang on becoming the first side other than Real Madrid to eliminate Atletico from Europe for five seasons.
There was a far more highly-charged atmosphere for Wenger’s penultimate home game in charge than there had been for last weekend’s game against West Ham United.
And the hosts were given plenty of encouragement early on, even when still up against Atletico’s full complement.
Lacazette volleyed off the outside of the post and forced Jan Oblak into the first of a series of fine saves with a header from close range.
Vrsaljko had been booked within two minutes for bringing down Jack Wilshere.

And the Croatian left his side a man light after just 10 minutes when French referee Clement Turpin showed no leniency for another late challenge on Lacazette.
Moments later, Simeone was also dismissed by the officious referee for taking his protests too far when an Arsenal player wasn’t booked for what he thought was a similar foul.
Atletico’s excellent defensive record is what has carried them to five European semifinals in seven seasons under Simeone.
The visitors battened down the hatches with 10 men, but were reliant on Oblak to keep them in the tie.
Wilshere headed straight at Oblak when unmarked at the back post at the end of a flowing Arsenal move.
And the Slovenian then spread himself well with an outstretched leg to deny Danny Welbeck.
Having weathered the Gunners’ early storm, Atletico only began to threaten themselves late in the first half and David Ospina had to be alert to parry a fiercely struck Griezmann shot following a fine run from Thomas Partey.
Atletico retreated ever deeper toward their own goal after the break and were finally punished on the hour mark when Wilshere’s deep cross found Lacazette rising above Lucas Hernandez to head in his seventh goal in seven games.
However, the French international and Arsenal could have had more.
Laczette’s dangerous ball across goal found no takers before he headed another good opportunity wide.
And Arsenal paid heavily for their profligacy, and some comical defending, when Atletico grabbed a vital away goal on 82 minutes.
Griezmann outmuscled French international team-mate Laurent Koscielny and then benefited from a slip by Shkodran Mustafi after his initial effort had been saved by Ospina to prod his 27th goal of the season into the roof of the net.
There was still time for Oblak to show why Griezmann isn’t the only Atletico player wanted by Europe’s elite with a spectacular one-handed save to turn Aaron Ramsey’s header behind and keep Los Rojiblancos on course for another European final.