Soccer

Moriyasu Japan starts strong with 3-0 win over Costa Rica

Kyodo

A new-look Japan side gave manager Hajime Moriyasu a winning start to his tenure on Tuesday night, beating Costa Rica 3-0 in an international friendly.

Takumi Minamino and Junya Ito scored their maiden international goals in the second half at Panasonic Stadium Suita, ensuring a comfortable victory in the Kirin Challenge Cup match following an early own goal by Costa Rica.

Opting to give Japan’s biggest names an extended break from international duty following this summer’s World Cup in Russia, Moriyasu selected a starting 11 drawn mostly from the J. League, with a few younger Europe-based players in the mix.

Portimonense playmaker Shoya Nakajima donned the No. 10 jersey, while 20-year-old FC Groningen midfielder Ritsu Doan made his Samurai Blue debut on the right side.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama became the first to wear the captain’s armband since longtime skipper Makoto Hasebe’s retirement after Japan’s exit in the World Cup round of 16.

Red Bull Salzburg forward Minamino made his first senior appearance since November 2015 a memorable one in the 66th minute, threading a shot from the left side of the box through a crowd of defenders and past Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira.

Late substitute Ito put the icing on the cake in the third minute of injury time. After breaking down the right wing, the Kashiwa Reysol midfielder dummied a defender at the edge of the box before dribbling across goal and blasting a left-footed shot into the back of the net.

The Samurai Blue took the lead in the 16th minute after Sho Sasaki nodded a Nakajima corner toward the goal line, where midfielder Bryan Oviedo headed into his own net with a botched clearance.

Olympic coach Moriyasu, an assistant to predecessor Akira Nishino at the World Cup, was appointed head of the senior men’s team in July.

His debut at the helm of the senior side was put on hold for four days after the powerful earthquake in Hokkaido last Thursday forced the cancellation of a friendly against Chile scheduled for the following day in Sapporo.