Nadeshiko Japan, New Zealand play to 1-1 draw

Kyodo

Japan, the reigning women’s world champion and London Olympic silver medalist, had returning captain Aya Miyama sent off and was held to a 1-1 draw by New Zealand in a rain-lashed international friendly on Thursday.

Yuki Ogimi opened the scoring with a well-taken strike midway through the first period, before Miyama was sent off for a second bookable offense on the stroke of halftime.

New Zealand pressed hard in the second half and its efforts were rewarded when Annalie Longo rifled home with seven minutes left.

“We are not in our best condition yet, and even before we were reduced to 10 players that was evident in the way we passed the ball,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “This is the level we are at right now. New Zealand are a quality team and have talented players.”

In Japan’s first home game in a year, Sasaki fielded a near full-strength squad. Former women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa and Miyama returned having been left out of the squad that finished fifth at the Algarve Cup in March in Portugal, an invitational tournament Sasaki used to give experience to younger players.

Ogimi opened the scoring with a fine first-time effort on 21 minutes, stabbing an inch-perfect, right-wing cross from Saori Ariyoshi.

Miyama then volleyed over a golden chance to double the lead, and New Zealand nearly hit back when Ria Percival forced a good save from Miho Fukumoto.

Miyama’s return to the national team ended on a sour note as she was sent off at the end of the first period after picking up her second yellow card.

The Kiwis nearly capitalized on their numerical advantage as Hannah Wilkinson hit the crossbar on 51 minutes, and Sarah Gregorious picked up the rebound only to be denied by Fukumoto.

It was all New Zealand in the second half, and Gregorious missed a great chance to level with a tame shot after bursting into the box, but Longo got the goal the visitors deserved when she lashed home past substitute goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

Japan travels to Europe for friendlies against England next Wednesday and Germany on June 29.