Much-changed Japan beat Uzbekistan to top Group F

Japan illustrated the strength in depth they have by changing the team but still beating a strong Uzbek side. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019

Much-changed Japan beat Uzbekistan to top Group F

  • Blue Samurai top Group F to set up clash with Saudi Arabia.
  • Hajjime Moriyasu made 10 changes from the team that beat Oman in the second match.

ABU DHABI: Tsukasa Shiotani thumped home a sizzling second-half winner as Japan changed 10 players but still beat Uzbekistan 2-1 to finish top of Group F at the Asian Cup.
The unfamiliar line-up briefly trailed after Eldor Shomurodov’s opener, but Newcastle United forward Yoshinori Muto’s header and Shiotani’s thunderbolt gave Japan their third win in the group.
In the round of 16, Japan will take on three-time winners Saudi Arabia, while Uzbekistan will take on defending champions Australia.
“The players achieved one of our goals, to reach the knockout stage with three wins and at the top of our group,” said Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu.
“It wasn’t a risk (to change 10 players),” he added. “I wanted to use these players today.
“We now have some tough games waiting for us so I think it was good that I could use these players and get them match-fit.”
Japan had smashed a total of 12 goals past Uzbekistan in their previous two Asian Cup encounters and with only one loss in their last 30 games in the tournament, excluding penalty shoot-outs, confidence was high.
Only Shimizu S-Pulse striker Koya Kitagawa survived from the team that beat Oman but the Blue Samurai still looked sharp with Junya Ito swinging in dangerous crosses from the right.
As Uzbekistan’s fans drummed along samba-style, Shomurodov scooped a decent chance over and Japan’s Takashi Inui worked veteran goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov with a powerful volley.
Nesterov also tipped over Kitagawa’s turn and shot before Shomurodov opened the scoring five minutes before the break with a fine piece of work, nudging the ball between two defenders and stabbing home for his fourth goal of the tournament.
But the Uzbek lead lasted only three minutes before defender Sei Muroya’s cross from the byline was met by a solid header from Newcastle’s Muto, arriving at the back post.
A spell of Japanese pressure early in the second half resulted in a thunderous goal from Shiotani, who plays his club football with Al Ain and unfurled a rippling strike just before the hour-mark.
It knocked the stuffing out of Uzbekistan and when they finally started to press forward again in the final 15 minutes, Japan nearly caught them on the break when Kitagawa blazed over.
With four minutes to go, Davronbek Khashimov caught a shot flush from outside the area and the ball was rocketing toward the top corner before the diving Daniel Schmidt gloved it away.
“It was an incredible save,” shrugged Uzbekistan coach Hector Cuper. “But the game was really equal in terms of performance and attitude.”

Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

Updated 36 min 10 sec ago

Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

  • Paris club said to turn down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million plus Coutinho and Rakitic

PARIS: Neymar remains no closer to getting his desired move away from Paris Saint-Germain amid reports Thursday the French club have rejected an offer from Real Madrid of €100 million($111 million) plus players.

French sports daily L’Equipe said Real had offered cash plus Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, but PSG turned it down because “the overall value of the offer did not match their expectations.” 

Paris paid €222 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona two years ago and their sporting director Leonardo is understood to be determined to only sell the forward for a deal considered to be of the same value.

Real have spent the summer trying to offload Bale, while James is unwanted after returning from a loan at Bayern Munich and Navas is no longer the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Barcelona remain hopeful of bringing Neymar back to the Camp Nou, but Catalan daily Sport claims an attempt to sign the player on loan with an obligation to buy for €160 million at the end of the season has been firmly rejected in Paris.

Sport claims Barcelona feel “it is very clear that PSG are trying to prevent the Brazilian from returning to the Camp Nou in any scenario.” 

PSG had previously reportedly turned down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million  plus Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic. Coutinho has since joined Bayern on loan.

Juventus are also believed to have stated an interest in signing the 27-year-old, who has not featured in any of PSG’s matches so far this season having been frozen out amid the uncertainty over his future. The transfer window closes in France, Spain and Italy on Sept. 2, meaning time is fast running out for a deal to be done.

Watford loan Sweden winger Sema to Udinese

Watford winger Ken Sema has completed a season-long loan move to Udinese, the Serie A side confirmed on Thursday.

The six-times capped Sweden international only moved to Vicarage Road last summer from Ostersunds FK and made 22 appearances for the English club.

The 25-year-old's departure follows the arrival of Senegal international Ismaila Sarr to the Premier League outfit on a club record transfer of €35 million   ($38 million) from Rennes. The northeastern Italian club and Watford are both owned by the Pozzo family.

Udinese host AC Milan in their opening match of the Serie A season on Saturday.