SANAA – Second-half substitute Kazuki Ganaha scored the only goal of the game in injury time as Japan beat Yemen 1-0 in an Asian Cup qualifier Wednesday.
Japan struggled all afternoon to split open the Yemeni defense before Kawasaki Frontale striker Ganaha notched his first international goal with a close-range shot after Seiichiro Maki knocked down a cross from Keisuke Tsuboi as the clock ticked down.
The result gave Japan nine points from four matches in Group A, while Yemen has three.
Saudi Arabia, which beat India 7-1 at home on Wednesday night, tops the group with 12 points. India is left without a point at the bottom of the four-team group.
“We dominated more than the scoreline suggested,and I don’t know what to say about the result,” Japan coach Ivica Osim said.
“The pitch was much more terrible than I thought it would be, making it hard for us to play our passing game the way we do in training sessions,” he added. “It was like we came here to do some other job, not playing football.”
Osim made one change to the side that lost 1-0 to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, which dropped Japan to second in Group A behind the Saudis, with Naotake Hanyu starting in place of Yuichi Komano on the left side of midfield.
Japan was slow to settle at altitude and on a bumpy pitch at Ali Mohsen Stadium but gradually found its rhythm as the game wore on.
Yuki Abe saw a long-range effort sail over the crossbar after 12 minutes before Yasuhito Endo had a free-kick parried to safety by goalkeeper Salem Saeed in the 22nd minute in a largely uneventful first half hour.
Maki then missed a golden chance to break the deadlock when he flashed a header wide of the post with the goal gaping following a right-wing cross from Tatsuya Tanaka.
Osim brought on Hisato Sato for Tanaka at the beginning of the second half and the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker responded with a mid-range shot that skimmed the bar in the 51st minute.
Alex Santos followed with an effort from 25 meters two minutes later, but his shot went straight into the arms of Saeed.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.