CHIBA – Former women’s world champion Japan edged China 1-0 on Monday to make it two wins out of two at the E-1 Football Championship.
Mina Tanaka scored her second goal of the four-team East Asian tournament in the first half to settle the contest at Chiba’s Fukuda Denshi Arena.
North Korea also has six points thanks to a 1-0 win over South Korea at the same venue in an earlier match and leads the standings on goal difference ahead of Japan.
“It was a really tough game but I am glad we could come through with a win,” said Japan coach Asako Takakura.
Japan can clinch its first championship title in three editions of the tournament with victory over North Korea in the final match on Friday.
“That is not going to be an easy match to win and we have to go in there feeling we are challengers and give it everything we have,” said Takakura.
Japan started brightly and Mizuho Sakaguchi forced China goalkeeper Zhao Lina into a smart save on three minutes.
The home side took the lead midway through the first half, Tanaka netting from 12 meters after racing onto Emi Nakajima’s through ball.
“It was a great ball from Emi and all I had to do was put it away,” said Tanaka, on target in Japan’s 3-2 opening win over South Korea. “There are a lot of things we have to work on looking at today’s performance but it is huge that we were able to come through a lot of tight spots to see out the game.”
China almost hit back in the 62nd minute, but Japan goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda got down to push away a low shot from Wang Shuang.
Substitute Mana Iwabuchi should have added a second goal for the Japanese but scuffed her shot wide after breaking through on goal in the closing stages.
Earlier, a glancing 18th-minute header from Kim Yun Mi was enough to earn North Korea victory over South Korea.
“The players battled well,” said North Korea coach Kim Kwang Min.
“The win came through mental toughness and teamwork (but) I think the players are not satisfied at having only scored one goal.”
On Tuesday in the men’s tournament at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium, North Korea plays South Korea and Japan faces China.