Japan survive scare, Qatar account for Lebanon at Asian Cup

Turkmenistan’s midfielder Ahmet Atayev scores form the penalty spot during the UAE 2019 Asian Cup match against Japan at the Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Japan won the match 3-2. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2019
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Japan survive scare, Qatar account for Lebanon at Asian Cup

  • Four-time champions Japan came from behind against Turkmenistan - ranked 127th in the world
  • 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar registered a 2-0 win over Lebanon

AL-AIN, United Arab Emirates: Yuya Osako’s quickfire double spared Japan’s blushes against lowly Turkmenistan at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, as 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar registered a 2-0 win over Lebanon.
Uzbekistan left it late before seeing off Oman 2-1 but it was four-time champions Japan who had the biggest scare as they had to come from behind against a team ranked 127th in the world.
Arslan Amanov’s first-half rocket raised the prospect of a titanic upset by Turkmenistan but Osako’s brace restored order before Ritsu Doan appeared to make the game safe.
However, Ahmet Atayev buried a penalty 11 minutes from time before Japan survived to win 3-2, a further reminder that the big teams have not had it all their own way at this Asian Cup.
“The first match is always a bit special and we expected a battle,” said Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu, who was relieved to get off to a winning start in Group F.
“Obviously we’re happy to get the three points but we have a lot of things to work on for the next game.”
Earlier in the tournament’s opening group games, defending champions Australia were shocked 1-0 by Jordan, South Korea labored to a 1-0 win over the Philippines and China needed an own goal to spark a 2-1 comeback win against Kyrgyzstan.
The Blue Samurai have arguably the best pedigree in the competition after reaching the last 16 of last year’s World Cup, and were not expected to be troubled by Turkmenistan.
But Turkmen captain Amanov put the heavy underdogs ahead after 26 minutes in Abu Dhabi, unleashing a ferocious long-range drive that arrowed into the top corner.
Osako produced a smart turn and finish inside the box to equalize for Japan 10 minutes into the second half after sustained pressure from the former champions.
The Werder Bremen striker put Japan in front four minutes later, tapping into an empty net, and Doan added a deflected third after 70 minutes but Atayev smashed in a penalty nine minutes later to ensure more anxious moments for the Japanese.
In Wednesday’s other Group F fixture, in Sharjah, Eldor Shomurodov was the hero for Uzbekistan as he struck four minutes from time to grab a 2-1 win.
Shanghai SIPG midfielder Odil Ahmedov fired the White Wolves ahead on 34 minutes with a low free kick, before Oman’s Muhsen Al-Ghassani levelled midway through the second half.
But as full time loomed, Shomurodov shrugged off the attentions of two defenders and beat goalkeeper Faiz Al-Rushaidi at his near post to clinch victory.
Near the end of a tepid opening half in Al Ain, Lebanon’s Ali Hamam thought he had scored with the game’s first shot on target — only for his volley to be ruled out for a foul.
The pace quickened in the second period and the breakthrough came on 65 minutes, when Bassam Al-Rawi swept a curling free kick over the wall and past a diving Mehdi Kahlil.
Substitute defender Abdelkarim Hassan, the 2018 Asian player of the year, was causing problems down the left and it was his break that created Qatar’s second when Almoez Ali gobbled up a rebound with 11 minutes on the clock.
It was a welcome win for Qatar, who are desperate for a good showing before their next major tournament — the 2022 World Cup on home soil.


Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 18 June 2019
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Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.