RIFU, Miyagi Pref. — Super sub Mitsuo Ogasawara came off the bench to score the winner as Japan came back from 4-2 down to secure a memorable 5-4 win over Honduras before a breathless crowd at Miyagi Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Wednesday night at Miyagi Stadium.
Atsushi Yanagisawa scored twice and Naohiro Takahara and Shunsuke Nakamura once each while Honduras captain Wilber Velasquez bagged a hat-trick as Japan repeatedly came back the dead before Ogasawara collected the ball on the edge of the area in the 78th minute and fired in a brilliant right-footed strike.
“I was pleased with the way I got the goal,” the 26-year-old Ogasawara said. “Of course I wanted to play from the start, but when I came on the least I could do was score.”
In a seesaw match, Velasquez put Honduras two-up before the half-hour mark before Takahara pulled one back on 33 minutes.
A shot from Junichi Inamoto was deflected by Jorge Samuel Caballero into the path of the Hamburg SV striker, who turned and slid home a classic poacher’s goal from close range.
But on the stroke of halftime, Honduras made it 3-1.
A counter attack saw Saul Martinez receive the ball on the edge of the area and he rifled the ball past the diving Seigo Narazaki.
A blitzkrieg of Japan attacks early in the second half culminated in it pulling a goal back on 48 minutes.
Nakamura floated a free-kick to the middle of the area and Yanagisawa timed his jump perfectly to power a header past Junior Morales.
Japan’s superiority in possession, however, highlighted how susceptible it was to the counter-attack.
Like a boxer drawing in an over-eager young fighter, the wily Latin Americans sucker punched the Boys in Blue when Martinez galloped down the left and, with the defense nowhere, crossed for Velasquez to complete his hat-trick.
But Japan got up off the floor and made it 4-3 on 55 minutes.
A Nakamura free-kick again caused all sorts of problems in the Honduras box before Tsuneyasu Miyamoto was brought down by Mario Berrios for a penalty.
Nakamura trotted over to the penalty spot, ignored the gamesmanship of ‘keeper Morales, and smashed the spot-kick home.
Yanagisawa’s second pulled the sides level on 70 minutes.
As defenders backed away from the Messina man, he unleashed an absolute beauty that gave Morales no chance.
And with the 45,198 crowd roaring the Boys in Blue forward, Alessandro Santos redeemed himself from his earlier transgressions — he was at fault for the first two goals — with a fantastic run before pulling back the ball into the path of Ogasawara who hammered home.
A happy but bemused Zico seemed to be still catching his breath after the match. “We had a great drive towards victory and we want to keep that up,” the Japan coach said.
He had praise for his European-based contingent in particular.
“The players are at the beginning of the season so we did see some mistakes, but nevertheless the players (from Europe) were good,” he said. “We haven’t had such an aggressive match for a while. It was a great chance to use various systems,” he said.
Japan’s next games will be two friendlies in October during a Europe-based training camp. Latvia will be the opposition on the Oct. 8 and a match against a strong Ukraine side, which qualified for the World Cup finals last weekend, is scheduled for Oct. 12.
It will be an under-strength Japan team that faces the Latvians as the J. League All-Star Game is on Oct. 9.
National team players taking part in this game will fly out to join the squad afterwards, JFA President Saburo Kawabuchi told The Asian Football Confederation’s Web site.
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