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
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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.”


Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

Updated 58 min 36 sec ago
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Old Trafford holds no fears for Pep Guardiola and title-chasing Manchester City

  • Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course for the title
  • City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford

MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Old Trafford is no longer a “scary” place to visit ahead of Wednesday’s derby at the home of Manchester United.
Victory for City in the Premier League clash will keep the reigning champions on course to become the first team in English football history to win a treble of all three major domestic trophies in the same season.
City boast an impressive run of five wins and a draw in their last seven league visits to Old Trafford — a sequence that includes 6-1 and 3-0 victories.
Guardiola, however, refused to use that form guide as a reason for confidence, although he accepted a trip to Old Trafford was not as daunting as in previous years.
“I don’t make theories about what happened in the past for what is going to happen in the future,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.
“Every game is completely different. The reason why is the fact this club in the last decade grew a lot and it is not scary to go there.
“Before it was maybe more difficult. The players Manchester City had in the last decade made this game a little bit more equal.”
Man City can move one point clear of title rivals Liverpool at the top of the table heading into their final three games of the season with victory over United.
This latest derby takes place against the backdrop of United’s woeful 4-0 loss away to Everton on Sunday, a lacklustre display that was roundly criticized.
Guardiola, however, did not expect the Goodison Park performance to have a major bearing on the derby.
“A little bit, yeah but even a good result, the confidence will be higher,” said Guardiola when asked if United’s defeat by Everton made his task harder.
“It is a derby and all the times we play against United, the derbies are always special games and the players do their best for the fans, the club.”
The Catalan boss added: “I saw the game, I imagine what will happen against us. The game against Everton is over.”
City will visit Old Trafford without inspirational playmaker Kevin De Bruyne who suffered a hamstring injury in the weekend win over Tottenham Hotspur that came just days after a dramatic Champions League semifinal loss to Spurs ended hopes of a quadruple.
It is the latest problem to hamper the Belgian in a campaign that has seen him plagued by knee trouble and Guardiola said De Bruyne would required a concerted training program ahead of next season.
“Muscular problems, he had two or three,” recalled Guardiola.
“In England you don’t have time to make a preparation.
“You play every three days that is not the best way. You have to make a good pre-season. Now he has to pay attention, the little details, see if he can play one or two more games this season and next season make a good pre-season.”
Meanwhile Guardiola denied claims that winger Riyad Mahrez — the club’s £60 million ($78 million, 69 million euros) record signing from Leicester last season — is unhappy at his lack of first-team opportunities and keen to move on from City.
“Riyad will be with us for the next season here and the next one and the next one,” he said.
“I don’t need to speak with him. He will be with us next season,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added. “He is a player for us. We are delighted with him and the way he plays.
“He is happy we are here. Everyone knows the competition we have here. He came last season to stay longer. It is not necessary to speak to him.”