NIIGATA – Takumi Minamino and Junya Ito each scored an international goal for the second game running as Japan eased to a 3-0 win over Panama on Friday night.
Salzburg striker Minamino put Japan ahead three minutes before halftime with a skillfully taken strike inside the box before Kashiwa Reysol forward Ito poached the second during a goalmouth scramble in the 66th minute of the Kirin Challenge Cup friendly.
The third, which came in the 85th minute at Denka Big Swan Stadium, was chalked up as an own goal to Panama defender Harold Cummings after initially being credited to substitute forward Kengo Kawamata.
In his second game in charge, Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu opted for a starting 11 with just four overseas-based players — Minamino, World Cup veterans Yuya Osako and Genki Haraguchi, and 19-year-old debutant Takehiro Tomiyasu.
The 188-cm center back for Belgian side Sint-Truiden made an assured debut, shoring up the defense alongside veteran Tomoaki Makino while presenting an aerial target on Japan’s corner kicks.
After starring in the No. 10 shirt in Japan’s 3-0 win over Costa Rica on Sept. 11, Portimonense playmaker Shoya Nakajima sat on the bench throughout the 90 minutes.
Groningen midfielder Ritsu Doan, who made an impressive international debut against Costa Rica, was limited to a nine-minute cameo in the second half.
Despite a lack of top-level talent, the fast and physical Panamanians showed a willingness to attack during their limited time in possession. But the Japanese defense kept them to just two shots in the first half, neither of them on target.
With Japan controlling the flow of game and keeping the ball in Panama’s half for much of the opening 45 minutes, it seemed a matter of when, rather than if, the Samurai Blue would find the net.
Minamino finally made the breakthrough when Toshihiro Aoyama intercepted a pass and played a laser-like through-ball to the Salzburg striker from just inside halfway. The 23-year-old Minamino received the ball near the top of the box, beating two defenders as he turned and ran into the area before calmly finishing with his left foot.
Ito was inches away from adding a second in injury time, just failing to get a touch to an Osako long ball at full stretch inside the box.
Japan’s first big chance came in the 23rd minute when Sei Muroya got through on goal in the right side of the box after running onto a ball over the top from Aoyama.
The FC Tokyo right back declined to shoot, opting to pass across goal in the direction of Osako and Minamino, neither of whom were able to make contact with the ball.
Japan survived a scare 11 minutes into the second half when Panama right back Michael Murillo sent a cross from inside the box that just missed striker Gabriel Torres directly in front of goal.
After opening his international account in injury time against Costa Rica, Ito added his second when he pounced on a spilled ball in the six-yard box.
With Japan on the attack, Haraguchi played a ball into the area from the left, finding Minamino, who fired a close-range shot that Panama ‘keeper Jose Calderon was unable to hold.
Kawamata, a 66th-minute substitute, looked to have scored while being tackled from behind inside the box, but Cummings was judged to have touched the ball last while trying to dispossess the Jubilo Iwata forward.
The second 3-0 victory in as many matches marks an impressive start to World Cup assistant and Olympic head coach Moriyasu’s tenure in charge of the senior side.
Japan faces Uruguay on Tuesday in Saitama.
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