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Japan captures East Asian Games soccer gold

Japan downed South Korea 4-3 on penalties Friday to clinch the gold medal at the East Asian Games and end their Asian archrival’s hopes of a third straight title in the regional competition.

Japanese captain Tadaaki Hirakawa drove home the winner from the spot in a nail-biting shoot-out after neither side could break the 1-1 deadlock in extra time in a tense semifinal at Osaka’s Expo Stadium.

Australia then downed Kazakstan 1-0 in the second semifinal — thanks to a 30th-minute penalty from Michael Ferrante — to guarantee the gold medal for the host nation.

Japan will be looking to avenge a 1-0 preliminary-round loss to the Australians, who are participating in the Games as guests and are not eligible to win any medals, in the final at Nagai Stadium on Sunday.

Future prospect Nobumitsu Yamane curled in a delightful free-kick in the 14th minute to put the home side in front, but after the break, the South Koreans by far the better side.

Just as it looked like Japan had done enough to secure the victory, South Korean substitute Lee Jung Soo headed home a Hyun cross to send the game into extra time.

In the shootout, Toshiyasu Takahara stopped Park Dong Hyuk’s opening effort and then dived low to his left to brilliantly tip Hwang’s spot kick around the post before Hirakawa fired home the winner.

Murofushi nabs gold

Japan’s Koji Murofushi failed to top his national record Friday but still managed to establish a new meet record and clinch the men’s hammer throw gold medal at the East Asian Games in Osaka.

Sydney Olympian Murofushi launched a second effort of 79.68 meters at Nagai Stadium to brush aside silver medalist Ye Kuigang of China, who recorded 72.17, and Japan’s Wataru Ebihara, who took the bronze with 68.55.

Murofushi was the only gold medalist of the day for the host nation in the track and field events.

Masaki Morinaga took silver in the men’s long jump with a leap of 8.02 meters but China’s Wang Cheng walked off with the gold after jumping 8.07. Huang Lee, also of China, took bronze with 7.77.

Makiko Yoshida set a new national record of 57.33 seconds in the women’s 400-meter hurdles but had to settle for bronze after Chinese duo Li Yulian and Song Yinglan took gold and silver with times of 56.43 and 56.94, respectively.

Japan judo flop

Chinese judoka won the two women’s events and South Koreans took the men’s titles Friday as host Japan was left with a lone silver and bronze on the second day of East Asian Games judo.

Olympic silver medalist Li Shufeng of China scraped together a “yusei” victory over South Korea’s Lee Bok Hee at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium to win the women’s 63-kg crown, while Song Jianfeng won the 70-kg class by ippon over Australia’s Catherine Arlove.

In the men’s competition, Cho In Chul, also a silver medal winner at the Sydney Games in September, won by yusei over Taiwan’s Chen Chang-ning at 81 kg and Yoon Dong Sik tossed Japan’s Yuta Yazaki in 43 seconds for the gold at 90 kg.

In the quarterfinals at 81 kg, Cho swept Japan’s Ryuichi Murata onto his back with an “uchimata” for an ippon win to gain a small measure of revenge for the loss he suffered in Sydney at the hands of Japan’s surprising Makoto Takimoto in the gold medal match.

Murata, however, came back for the bronze medal with a win over Australia’s Daniel Kelly. The other bronze went to China’s Xiao Deqiang.

At 90 kg, the bronze medals were won by Sergey Shakimov of Kazakstan and China’s Xu Zhiming.

In the women’s events, Sagat Abikeyeva of Kazakstan and South Korea’s Kim Mi Jung, who edged Japan’s Miki Amao, won the bronze medals at 70 kg while Taiwan’s Wang Chin-Fang took the lone bronze medal at 63 kg.

In the other bronze medal match at 63 kg, Carly Dixon of Australia downed Japan’s Ayumi Tanimoto, but did not receive the medal since Australian competitors, as open participants, are not eligible for any awards in the games.