CHIBA – Mana Iwabuchi hit a late winner as the Japan women’s team edged South Korea 3-2 in their opening game of the E-1 Football Championship on Friday night.
Japan was twice pegged back after leading through goals from Mina Tanaka and substitute Emi Nakajima at a rain-hit Fukuda Denshi Arena, but Iwabuchi settled the contest for good in the 83rd minute.
“I am still in the process of building the team but with the championship title in mind the first game was crucial,” said Japan coach Takako Asakura. “We won by being resilient and that will go a long way for this team.”
Japan needed just seven minutes to go in front as Tanaka took advantage of slack marking to head in Miho Manya’s cross from the left, but it did not take long for South Korea to hit back.
The visitors were awarded a penalty after Rumi Utsugi was adjudged to have handled in the box and Cho So-hyun drove home the spot kick in the 14th minute to make it 1-1.
Japan retook the lead in the 70th minute, Nakajima slotting in at the far post after Shiori Miyake had headed on Ayumi Oya’s corner, only for the South Koreans to respond once again, Lee Mi-na crossing for Han Chae-rin to level with a sweetly taken volley.
But Iwabuchi was to have the final word, keeping her cool to smash home from close range after Nakajima’s shot had come off the crossbar.
In the first game of the women’s tournament at the same venue earlier in the day, North Korea defeated China 2-0 thanks to a brace from Kim Yun Mi.
“The result of the first game has a big effect on how the rest of the tournament will play out,” said North Korea coach Kim Kwang Min.
“The players were calm and played well. This has paved the way for us to win the tournament.”