Ja­pan hold Aus­tralia in qual­i­fy­ing match

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Genki Haraguchi scored an early goal but gave away a se­cond-half penalty as Ja­pan drew 1-1 with Aus­tralia in a pul­sat­ing World Cup qual­i­fier in Mel­bourne yes­ter­day.

Haraguchi got Ja­pan off to a flying start by scor­ing in the fifth minute at Dock­lands sta­dium but the vis­i­tors’ cel­e­bra­tions were tem­pered when the mid­fielder made a clumsy chal­lenge on for­ward Tomi Juric shortly af­ter the break.

Soc­ceroos cap­tain Mile Je­d­i­nak slot­ted home the spot-kick in the 52nd minute to sal­vage a point for the hosts but both the Asian heavy­weights were left frus­trated af­ter chances went beg­ging in a high-tempo se­cond half.

The re­sult left each team with their World Cup des­tiny in their hands, but Ja­pan will leave more sat­is­fied af­ter shrug­ging off fa­tigue and in­jury con­cerns to hold the Asian Cup cham­pi­ons. “My feel­ing af­ter this game is not re­gret, maybe some frus­tra­tion,” Ja­pan coach Vahid Halil­hodzic told re­porters.

“We had a tac­ti­cal prepa­ra­tion based on our phys­i­cal con­di­tion. “The play­ers did a good job, es­pe­cially de­fen­sively.” Aus­tralia coach Ange Postecoglou started Juric up front, with veteran for­ward Tim Cahill play­ing the last 20 min­utes off the bench.

Tal­is­man Cahill, the match-win­ner against Ja­pan at the 2006 World Cup, was loudly cheered by the crowd of 48,000 when he came on but was un­able to in­flu­ence the game.

Aus­tralia paid the price for an early mis­take by de­fender Trent Sains­bury. Keisuke Honda laid off a su­perb pass for Haraguchi to run on to and he fin­ished with a deft left-foot shot that slid be­neath keeper Mat Ryan’s out­stretched leg.

Rat­tled, Aus­tralia lifted their work-rate but were de­void of ideas go­ing for­ward in a slug­gish first half. They were lucky not to be 2-0 down in the 28th minute when Honda, af­forded space at the edge of the area, fired straight at the keeper.

A more en­ter­pris­ing Soc­ceroos team emerged af­ter the break, and were re­warded when Haraguchi fouled into Juric in the box.

Je­d­i­nak ham­mered his spot kick straight down the cen­tre. A bril­liant, div­ing save by Ryan de­nied Yu Kobayashi in the 74th minute, the keeper’s right glove stop­ping the mid­fielder’s header. Ja­pan also en­dured a nerve-jan­gling fin­ish, with de­fender Matthew Spi­ra­novic latch­ing on to a free kick from Mas­simo Luongo but send­ing the header over shortly be­fore stop­page time. “We were very poor in the first half,” Postecoglou said. “That’s a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment for me.” — Reuters

MEL­BOURNE: Ja­pan’s Yu Kobayashi heads the ball to­wards the goal dur­ing the World Cup 2018 foot­ball qual­i­fi­ca­tion match be­tween Aus­tralia and Ja­pan in Mel­bourne yes­ter­day. — AFP

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