Japan Under-22s coasted to a 3-1 victory against their Malaysian counterparts to ensure they finished with a perfect record in the penultimate round of qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics.
Japan had already qualified for the final round from Group B with two games to spare but a mainly reserve team made it six wins out of six Wednesday with goals from Yuto Nagatomo, Shuto Suzuki and Hiroki Bandai.
The draw for the final round of qualifiers is June 13. The final round is to be played between Aug. 22 and Nov. 21. Only the winner of each of the three final groups of four will head to Beijing.
“Obviously I’m pleased with the result,” said Japan coach Yasuharu Sorimachi. “I made a lot of changes to the team that played the last game against Hong Kong. Some of the players showed that they still have a lot to learn while others played their way into contention for the final round of qualifiers.”
Meiji University defender Nagatomo opened the scoring in front of a crowd of 18,020 at Tokyo’s National Stadium with a brave header on 28 minutes, just beating Malaysia ‘keeper Syed Adney Syed Hussein to a cross from the left.
Suzuki doubled the lead five minutes later when the Waseda University midfielder controlled the ball with his chest on the edge of the area and thrashed in a left-foot drive.
Bandai nearly made it three before halftime when he hit the post from an acute angle, but the Sendai Vegalta forward did score on 52 minutes from the penalty spot.
Malaysia captain Sooryapparad Subramaniam pulled a goal back from close range just before the hour mark, and although Sorimachi’s men had a number of chances to increase the lead in the last third of the match the score stayed the same.
“We played a very strong team today,” said Malaysia coach Satiananthan R. Bhaskran. “They are more experienced than us and they played very well today.
“The reserves wanted to prove something to the Japan coach and they really went all out. They want to be in the team in the future and it was a good decision by the coach. They gave us hell.
“Japan must be one of the best teams in Asia and they will definitely qualify for the Olympics,” said Bhaskran.
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