Japan 1 Oman 0
January 13 – A penalty scored by Genki Haraguchi was enough to secure Japan passage to the last 16 of the Asian Cup. They could have been three goals up within 15 minutes but for missed chances and a brilliant performance by Omani keeper Faiyz Al Rashidi.
It could also have been so different with Japan getting the benefit of a penalty decision to score while Oman having their own call for what looked like a nailed on penalty turned down.
Japan had played Oman six times prior to this match, winning five and drawing once. Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu made two changes from the starting line up against Turkmenistan. Werder Bremen striker Osaka Yuya, who scored twice against Turkmenistan, was moved to the bench to give a start to Koya Kitagawa. He may well have been rueing that decision in the first 25 minutes as chance after chance went begging.
Within a minute Kitagawa had scooped the ball over the bar after a Japanese counter attack down the right hand side. On seven minutes it was Takumi Minamino’s turn to miss, shooting wide with just Al Rashidi to beat. Four minutes later he pushed wide again.
Japan’s movement, especially down the right with Gaku Shibasaki and Ritsu Doan in complete control, was causing endless problems for the Omani’s but it was a controversial penalty decision that gave the Japanese their breakthough.
A scramble on the edge of the Omani box ended with a pile of players and the referee pointing at the spot. Genki Haraguchi stepped up to score past Al Rashidi where Minamino couldn’t.
Oman’s first half luck didn’t improve. In the closing minutes a Japan handball inside the box blocked the ball’s bath to goal. Calls for a penalty were inexplicably turned down in favour of a corner. It was a game-changing decision.
The second half saw a now more subdued Japan creating far fewer chances as the Omanis pressured higher up the pitch up the pressure.
Urged on but a fan in the Omani crowd on a megaphone, calling for his team to make them happy, the game became more evenly matched, though goal chances were few following the Japanese shot-fest of the first half.
With time running out the Omani fan on the megaphone kept up his impressive pace, imploring his team forward. They obliged with a corner but it wasn’t to be. Japan countered at speed with Minamino winning a foul on left hand side of the Omani box. The cross was athletically beaten out with a diving punch by the brilliant Al Rashidi to the sound of the refs final whistle.
“More chances in the second half would have been better,” said Japanese coach Moriyasu. “Oman played with more pressure and power in the second half. We need to improve in attack to have more scoring chances and goals to clinch the game.
For his part Oman’s Verbeek refused to blame the ref for two decisions that could have gone the other way, reflecting the refreshing humility, good humour and positivity of the impressive Omani fans. They should get an award of some sort.
“For me was a 100% penalty but ee didn’t deserve to have the 1-1…In the second half we were better in control but not have enough power. I am proud of what my players did, they fight and did everything possible – they played on high maximum but at the end Japan were a better team,” said Verbeek.
Japan now top the group and face Uzbekistan in their final game. They are ertainly not firing on all cylinders but their performance levels are building. Oman can take heart from the fact that they were competitive. The man on the megaphone can go home happy and get his voice ready for the match-up with Turkmenistan on Wednesday. They aren’t out the competition yet.
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