Japan Under-22s huffed and puffed their way to a 3-0 win over their Hong Kong counterparts in a Beijing Olympics qualifier on Wednesday at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
FC Tokyo’s Sota Hirayama’s opener on 11 minutes set up the tantalizing prospect for the 11,909 fans of the floodgates opening against a clearly inferior Hong Kong.
qualifier against Hong Kong at National Stadium in Tokyo. Japan won 3-0.
The goal rush failed to materialize, though, with Japan missing a hatful of chances on another woeful night in front of goal, and the hosts had to wait until the 66th minute before Yohei Kajiyama doubled the lead and Chikashi Masuda rounded off the scoring on 83 minutes.
“We got the result but it was a poor performance,” said Japan coach Yasuharu Sorimachi. “We must now try to improve and get a result in our next game.”
Hirayama scored when, seemingly offside but with the linesman keeping his flag down, the FC Tokyo striker received a pass from Jubilo Iwata’s Bobby Cullen and clipped the ball over ‘keeper Li Jian, following in to make sure.
The Japanese failed to break down the United States in a 0-0 draw last week, and it wasn’t until Koki Mizuno battled well on the right, cut inside and laid the ball off to FC Tokyo midfielder Kajiyama, who swept the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0, that they could breath easy.
Substitute Masuda, a Kashima Antlers midfielder, made the score a little more respectable with a simple tap-in, before Hong Kong’s Leung Chun Pong’s frustrations boiled over on 85 minutes, the midfielder sent off for a wild lunge.
Hirayama, before his goal, had hit the post after dribbling around ‘keeper Li and Cullen, not the quickest of players, smashed a shot against the same upright two minutes after the opening goal after racing clear of a staggeringly ponderous Hong Kong defense.
“We were stiff but glad we got a result,” said Hirayama. “I messed up the first chance but fortunately made up for it.”
Hirayama was rightfully ruling the roost against the Hong Kong defense and looked dangerous in buildup play, if not when presented with a goal-scoring chance.
His powder-puff header from whites-of-the-eyes range early in the second half, which Li gratefully caught, summed up all of what is frustrating about Japan’s inability to find the back of the net.
Hong Kong coach Lai Sun Cheung was scathing in his appraisal of Hirayama.
“I have to say he’s not very dangerous,” Lai said.
Japan was nearly made to pay for its profligacy before Kajiyama’s goal when ‘keeper Kenya Matsui made an almighty hash of controlling a back pass, but Hong Kong striker Chan Siu Ki’s sliding shot rolled just past the post.
“Japan controlled the pace of the game and we have to confess they are a better side and deserved the win,” said Lai.
The Japanese, who received a first-round bye in the Olympic qualifiers, also face Malaysia and Syria in Group B, with the top two teams heading into the final round.
The final round is scheduled to begin in late August.
Japan’s next game in Group B is away to Malaysia on March 14.
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