Holder Japan took another step toward its second consecutive Asian Cup title after beating Jordan 4-3 in a nail-biting penalty shootout in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.

News photo Japan’s Akira Kaji fights for the ball with Jordan’s Haitham Al Shboul during their
Asian Cup quarterfinal match in Chongqing, China.

Bashar Bani Yaseen missed the decisive spot kick as Japan moved into the semifinals after a pulsating encounter at Chongqing Olympic Sports Center finished 1-1 after extra time.

Shunsuke Nakamura and Alessandros Santos missed their spot kicks but Japan came back from 2-0 down to win the penalties 4-3, with the last four Jordan players missing the target partly on superb saves from Kawaguchi.

“I believed to the end that we would win the shootout,” Japan coach Zico said. “It’s a pity we didn’t win after 90 minutes and then 120 minutes, but I did believe that victory would be ours.”

Japan faces Bahrain in Jinan in the semifinals on Tuesday, while the winner of Saturday’s late quarterfinal between Iran and South Korea will face host China in the last four in Beijing.

Mahmoud Shelbaieh had headed Asian Cup debutant Jordan into an 11th-minute lead, only for Takayuki Suzuki to silence the Chinese fans with the equalizer three minutes later.

Unsurprisingly, Chinese fans ignored calls for them to stop booing the Japanese national anthem and a huge roar went up around the stadium when a giant screen showing the Japan players singing their country’s anthem started malfunctioning.

On the pitch, the game got off to an explosive start and after Qusai Abu Alieh saw a shot fly over the bar, Jordan, being cheered on by the country’s monarch King Abdullah II, took a shock lead.

Khaled Sa’ed left Makoto Tanaka and Akira Kaji for dead on the left flank and whipped over a perfect cross for Mahmoud Shelbaieh to power home a thumping header.

But the euphoria in the Olympic Sports Center had barely died down when Japan hit back.

Nakamura’s free-kick eluded everyone and Amer Shafi Sabbah could only push the ball straight into the path of Suzuki, who bundled home from close range.

Both sides had chances to go in front before the break with Hassouneh Qasem and Sa’ed forcing two outstanding saves from Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Japan winger Santos narrowly missing the target with the last kick of the half.

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