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.”


Kusal Perera the hero as Sri Lanka pull off stunning run chase to beat South Africa in Durban

Updated 16 February 2019
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Kusal Perera the hero as Sri Lanka pull off stunning run chase to beat South Africa in Durban

DURBAN: Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning against-the-odds run chase to beat South Africa by one wicket in the first Test on Saturday as Kusal Perera almost single-handedly won the game with his 153 not out.
Chasing an unlikely 304, Sri Lanka were 226-9 and seemingly out of it. But a last-wicket partnership of 78 between Perera and Vishwa Fernando took the tourists to a thrilling victory on the fourth day.
Perera scored 68 of those 78 runs, but Fernando hung in for 27 balls for his 6 not out to allow Perera to guide the tourists home.
Sri Lanka’s victory gives them a 1-0 lead in the short two-test series and ends South Africa’s run of seven straight home series wins.
Sri Lanka’s 304-9 was the third-highest successful run chase in nearly 100 years of Test cricket at the Kingsmead ground in Durban.
Perera won it with a late cut down to the boundary for four, prompting Sri Lankan players to sprint from the dressing room and out onto the pitch to congratulate their match winner. Perera removed his helmet and thrust both arms up in the air to celebrate one of the best innings ever by a Sri Lankan.
Sri Lanka have lost their last three series and had two debutants and a new captain for the first test, meaning few people gave the inexperienced visiting team a chance against South Africa.