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Sugasawa propels Japan past New Zealand

Kyodo

Yuika Sugasawa scored a late winner as Japan edged New Zealand 2-1 in Osaka on Thursday in a friendly ahead of the Women’s Asian Cup in Vietnam.

Megumi Takase collected a long through ball from Aya Miyama to drive home from close range shortly before halftime to fire Japan in front, before Kirsty Yallop pounced on a half-baked clearance from Saori Ariyoshi to rifle home the equalizer.

But substitute Sugasawa headed in unmarked from a corner in the dying stages to give Japan a boost ahead of its opening Asian Cup game against defending champions Australia on May 14.

“Somehow we were able to grind out the win and we can work on our combinations ahead of the game against Australia,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki.

Japan, which lost to Australia in the semifinals in 2010 before its historic World Cup triumph in Germany a year later, faces hosts Vietnam on May 16 and Jordan two days later.

China, South Korea, Thailand and Myanmar are in Group B. The top five teams earn qualification for Canada.