Ja­pan sur­vive scare, Qatar get wel­come Asian Cup win

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT -

Y UYA Osako’s quick f ire dou­ble spa red Japa n’s blushes against lowly Turk menistan at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, as 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar brief ly lifted the clouds of t he Gulf cr isis wit h a 2-0 win over Le­banon.

Uzbek­istan left it late be­fore see­ing off Oman 2-1 but it was four-t ime cha mpi­ons Japa n who had the big­gest scare as they had to come from be­hind from a team ranked 127th in t he world.

Arsla n Amanov’s f irst-half rocket raised t he prospect of a ti­tanic up­set by Turk­me­nis t a n but Os a k o’s br a c e re­stored or­der be­fore Ritsu Doan ap­peared to make the game safe.

How­ever, A h met At ayev buried a penalt y 11 min­utes from time be­fore Ja­pan surv ived to win 3-2, a f ur t her 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 bat t le,” s a id Japa n coach Ha­jime Moriyasu, who was re­lieved to get off to a winning start in Group F.

“Ob­vi­ously we’re happy to get t he t hree 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 laboured to a 1-0 win over the Philippines and China needed a n ow n goa l to spa rk a 2-1 come­back win against Kyrg yzs­tan.

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.

B u t Tu r k men c a pt a i n Amanov put the heav y un­der­dogs ahead af­ter 26 min­utes in Abu Dhabi, un­leash­ing a fe­ro­cious long-ra nge drive t hat ar­rowed into the top corner.

Gulf show­down

Osa ko pro­duced a sma r t turn and fin­ish in­side the box to equalise 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, tappi ng i nto a n empty net, and Doan added a def lected 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 f i x t ure, i n Sha r ja h, El­dor Sho­murodov was the hero for Uzbek­istan as he struck four min­utes from time to grab a 2-1 win.

Shang­hai SIPG midf ielder Odil Ahme­dov fired the White Wolves ahead on 34 min­utes wit h a low f ree k ick, be­fore Oman’s Muh­sen Al-Ghas­sani lev­elled mid­way through the sec­ond half.

But a s f u l l t i me loomed, Sho­murodov shrugged off the at­tent ions of t wo de­fend­ers and beat goal­keeper Faiz AlRushaidi at his near post to clinch v ic­tor y.

El se where, Qat a r ’s c a mpa ig n i n Group E opened un­der the shadow of the Gulf show­down that has left them block­aded a nd shunned by t hei r neig hbours, i nclud­ing A sia n Cup host s UA E, for more than 18 months.

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 brea kthrough came on 65 min­utes, when Bas­sam Al-Rawi swept a curl i ng f ree k ick over t he wall and past a div ing Me­hdi Kahlil.

Sub­sti­tute de­fender Ab­delka­rim Has­san, the 2018 Asian player of the year, was caus­ing prob­lems down the left and it was his brea k t hat 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 as well as con­tend­ing with the Gulf block­ade are also des­per­ate for a good show­ing be­fore t heir next ma­jor tour­na­ment – the 2022 World Cup on home soil.

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