SEOUL – Yuya Osako scored twice and Manabu Saito also opened his national team account as Japan beat Australia 3-2 in its second match at the East Asian Cup on Thursday night.
Saito opened the scoring with a stunning first-half strike and Osako added the second on 56 minutes. Two quick-fire goals from Mitchell Duke and Tomi Juric put the Socceroos on level terms, but Osako completed his brace and the victory in the 79th minute.
Japan moved onto four points after its opening 3-3 draw with China while Australia has a point after drawing 0-0 with South Korea on Saturday. South Korea drew 0-0 with China on Wednesday.
“I was able to score after we had been pegged back at 2-2 and this is a huge win for the team,” said Kashima Antlers striker Osako.
“You feel responsibility and there are expectations of you (on your first start) and I am happy that I was able to produce results. I think if we win our next game we have got the title and we have to reset our switches for that now.”
Japan wraps up the tournament against hosts South Korea on Sunday, when Australia plays China.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni fielded an entirely different 11 from the one that started in Sunday’s draw with China, handing debuts to a handful of players including Sagan Tosu striker Yohei Toyoda and Kashiwa Reysol defender Daisuke Suzuki.
Beijing Olympic striker Toyoda looked lively early on but it was Saito that lit up the first half with a wonderful solo effort on 26 minutes.
The Yokohama F. Marinos marksman, who like Osako made his debut as a late substitute on Sunday, cut in from the left and weaved his way past Ryan McGowan and Duke before clipping into the left-hand corner of the net.
Toyoda spurned a great chance to extend the Blue Samurai’s lead on 37 minutes and could only send a free header straight at Socceroos goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic after a pinpoint cross from Hiroki Yamada.
Australia nearly leveled five minutes before the break as Mark McKay sent a volley over the bar, but Osako put Japan in the driver’s seat when he took a layoff from Toyoda and kept his head to prod in the second goal.
But Australia hit back when Mitch Nichols lofted a ball into the box for Duke to fire home, and the Japanese were still coming to terms with that blow when Juric made it 2-2 just after coming off the bench.
However, straight from the restart Japan went back in front for good as Osako finished a neat move involving Masato Kudo and Toyoda.