Soccer: Japan edge profligate Saudis to reach Asian Cup quarter-finals
Soccer Football – AFC Asian Cup – Round of 16 – Japan v Saudi Arabia – Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates – January 21, 2019 Saudi Arabia’s Fahad Al-Muwallad in action with Japan’s Takehiro Tomiyasu and Gaku Shibasaki REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) – A first-half goal from Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to send Japan into the Asian Cup quarter-finals for the eighth consecutive tournament after a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
The Saudis, looking to end a 23-year drought since their third continental title, paid the price for failing to convert their chances and so the four-times champion Samurai Blue progress to face Vietnam on Thursday.
Japan went in front in the 20th minute when defender Tomiyasu rose above a Saudi defender in the centre of the box to head a corner into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Saudi Arabia dictated play in both halves but were simply unable to finish in front of goal as the Samurai Blue defenders put in a solid shift.
Midfielder Salem Aldawsari had a golden opportunity to put the Green Falcons level in the 62nd minute but sprayed the ball over the bar with a right footed shot from the centre of the box.
Moments later defender Ali Hadi Albulayhi guided the ball well over the bar with a free header after an inviting Aldawsari cross into the penalty area.
Japan, who claimed their last title in 2011, had won all three of its previous tournament matches to finish top of their group, while Saudi Arabia finished second in theirs with wins over North Korea and Lebanon.
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