The story appears on

Page A16

October 13, 2021

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sports » Soccer

Late own goal to Japan’s rescue

Australia’s record-breaking run in World Cup qualifying ended yesterday when Aziz Behich’s late own goal handed Japan a lifeline as the Samurai Blue earned a 2-1 victory at Saitama Stadium.

Behich bundled the ball over his own goal line after Takuma Asano’s late shot looped up and hit the post, ensuring Australia missed out on a 12th straight win on the road to Qatar 2022.

Ao Tanaka had given Japan the lead in the ninth minute as the home side sought to pick up only its second victory after four games in the final phase of the continent’s qualifying campaign, a run that put coach Hajime Moriyasu under pressure.

The result moves third-placed Japan to within three points of the Socceroos, who lead Group B ahead of Saudi Arabia — also on nine points but with a game in hand — in the battle for two guaranteed places from the section at next year’s World Cup.

The Saudis were taking on China later yesterday.

In Saitama, Tanaka was called up in place of Gaku Shibasaki and the midfielder impressed, striking across goalkeeper Mat Ryan to give the Japanese the lead.

But Ajdin Hrustic levelled the scores 20 minute from time with a curling free kick that went in off the underside of Shuichi Gonda’s crossbar after the video assistant review had overturned a decision to award the Australians a penalty.

The Japanese, who have qualified for every World Cup since 1998, were under huge pressure going into the game having won only one of their previous matches in the final phase of Asia’s preliminaries.

Moriyasu rang the changes, dropping Shibasaki — who was responsible for the goal Japan conceded against Saudi Arabia last week — and replacing him with the more dynamic Tanaka.

The change paid off in the ninth minute as Tanaka was found with time and space in the penalty area by Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino, and the midfielder scored with a low shot past Ryan.

Japan had the opportunities to add to its tally with Junya Ito and Yuya Osako both missing the target, and they were to rue not taking those chances in the second half.

Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic went close before Hrustic was brought down on the edge of the area by Hidemasa Morita and, after referee Abdulrahman al-Jassim had initially awarded a penalty, VAR overturned the decision and gave a free kick.

It mattered little as Hrustic struck in style before Ryan kept a determined Japan at bay until Behich’s own goal.

“Both teams had a go at each other,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said. “We were unlucky that we hit the post but ... at the end of the day, it wasn’t meant to be but we are on nine points after four games.”

Only the top two teams in each of Asia’s two qualifying groups advance to the finals, with the third-placed teams going into a series of playoffs.

Japan is seeking a seventh straight World Cup appearance. Australia has appeared at every World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia can make it four wins out of four to stay on course for a sixth World Cup appearance when it hosts China. The visitor, aiming to return to the global stage for the first time since its debut appearance in 2002, picked up a first win in the group last Thursday, defeating Vietnam 3-2 thanks to a last-minute Wu Lei goal.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend