MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Japan reached the semifinals of the men’s Olympic soccer for the first time in 44 years with a 3-0 win over 10-man Egypt on Saturday before a crowd of 70,772 at Old Trafford.
Kensuke Nagai opened the scoring in the first half before captain Maya Yoshida and Yuki Otsu added to the damage as Takashi Sekizuka’s side joined women’s world champions Nadeshiko in the last four of the Olympic football tournament.
The game unfolded much like Japan’s 1-0 victory over Spain in its London opener, when Yuki Otsu scored during the early phases before Inigo Martinez was sent off minutes to halftime. The referee of the Spain game, American Mark Geiger, also refereed Saturday’s match.
Four minutes after Daisuke Suzuki somehow managed to miss a point-blank free header, Hiroshi Kiyotake stripped the ball off the Egyptian defense to put through.
Nagai was staring at an empty net after goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi and defender Saadeldin Saad collided, and the Nagoya Grampus speedster put Japan up with his second goal of the tournament.
Nagai, though, was injured in the process as Ahmed Hegazi grazed his left thigh with a late challenge. Nagai briefly reentered the game but was taken off in the 20th minute for Manabu Saito.
Egypt poured it on over the next 20 minutes in search of the equalizer, testing the resolve of the Japanese defense by creating one opportunity after another.
But just when it appeared Egypt might restore parity, Japan gained the advantage in manpower in the 41st minute.
Kiyotake kick-started the counterattack, unleashing Keigo Higashi who then put Saito in the clear. Saito was hauled down just outside the box by Saad, who was given his marching orders.
Japan completely controlled the second half and while it took a while, scored a pair of late goals to secure the win.
Yoshida opened his account at London with a header from a Kiyotake free kick in the 79th minute and two minutes later, Otsu nodded in his second goal of the competition after a leftwing cross from Takahiro Ogihara.
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