Sunday, January 30, 2011

Japan crowned Kings of Asia

Substitute Tadanari Lee was the hero as his goal led Japan to a 1-0 win over Australia at the Asian Cup Final.
Lee volleyed home Yuto Nagatomo's left-wing cross after 108 minutes at Khalifa Stadium to clinch the title and deny Australia a maiden triumph.
The Socceroos had the game's first chance when a slick move ended with Carl Valeri feeding Matt McKay but he sliced wide of the far post.
Mark Schwarzer then nearly gifted Japan the opening goal when, in trying to prevent the ball going behind for a corner, he kicked it straight to Nagatomo. The defender's effort from distance to sailed over the bar with David Carney scrambling back to cover.
Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima did well to push Harry Kewell's close-range header away in the 18th minute after Tim Cahill had met Carney's corner on the far side of the box.
Kewell hit the side netting from a narrow angle when he latched on to Cahill's knockdown from Lucas Neill's diagonal ball just after the half-hour mark and Ryoichi Maeda fired over from outside the box following Yasuhito Endo's lay-off as the first-half ended goalless.
Australia came agonisingly close to taking the lead two minutes after the interval when Kawashima mis-judged Luke Wilkshire's cross, with the ball hitting the bar and then the on-rushing Cahill, but Maya Yoshida was on the line to keep it out.
Kewell lashed over from inside the six-yard box before Japan almost broke the deadlock in the 65th minute when Shinji Okazaki met Nagatomo's delivery from the left but his glancing header was just the wrong side of the post with Schwarzer motionless.
Kewell then wasted the best chance of the game six minutes later when he latched onto a long ball following a mistake from the Japanese defence and raced clear on goal but Kawashima denied him with his outstretched right leg.
Substitute Robbie Kruse almost made an immediate impact for Australia in the first period of extra-time but his header from Brett Emerton's cross was clawed away by a desperate Kawashima from under the bar.
Japan finally broke the deadlock in the 108th minute when Nagatomo surged down the left wing and his cross found Lee unmarked eight yards from goal. The substitute waited an age for the ball to drop but his fine left-foot volley left Mark Schwarzer with no chance as it flew into the back of the net.
The Australian keeper held Endo's free-kick and Carney struck a set-piece into the wall as Japan clung on to claim a historic victory.

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