Amer Sabah stopped a late penalty attempt from Yasuhito Endo to help secure a stunning 2-1 upset win for Jordan and deny Japan their shot at being the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Khalil Baniateyah’s headed goal gave the hosts a 1-0 lead just before halftime on Tuesday. After the break, Japan pressed for the equalizer that would have been enough for them to qualify for the World Cup after Australia drew 2-2 with Oman, but Jordan doubled their lead on the hour when Ahmad Hayel Ibrahim took a loose ball near midfield, outpaced two defenders and chipped it past sprawling goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa pulled one back for Japan eight minutes later, taking a nifty back-heel pass from Hiroshi Kiyotake and firing it past the goalkeeper, and Japan seemed to be on the verge of the draw they needed for a spot in Brazil when Atsuto Uchida earned a penalty three minutes later after colliding with a defender in the area.
However, Endo’s spot-kick was saved by the Jordan goalkeeper.
Japan still lead Group B by six points from Jordan and are seven clear of Australia and Oman. The top two teams from each of the Asian groups earn automatic spots in Brazil.
Uzbekistan lead Group A with 11 points from six matches after a 1-0 win at home over Lebanon, with South Korea improving to 10 points from five games after Son Heung-min’s late goal secured a 2-1 win over Qatar in a physical match in Seoul.
However, most of the regional focus in this round was on Japan’s push for Brazil, something Jordan were desperate to block.
“We had a mission and we succeeded,” said Jordan coach Adnan Hamad, whose team was humbled 6-0 by Japan earlier in qualifying. “It was a high-level match from both teams, and we did our best and managed to play against one of the best teams. Amer saved us from a very hard position and the team’s spirit was really at its best. I thank everyone for this win.”
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni credited Jordan with a strong performance, but acknowledged that his players should have done better with their chances, especially in the early part of the second half when they dominated possession.
“It is too bad we lost a penalty, but it happens,” Zaccheroni said. “We had several chances to score, but without success. We lost a chance to qualify early, but still it was a good match.”
Group rivals Australia had to score twice in the second half to salvage a 2-2 draw against Oman and only narrowly avoided a shock upset defeat.
Brett Holman equalized with a long-range strike after Oman jumped to a 2-0 lead through forward Abdul Mubarak’s sixth-minute strike and an own-goal by Mile Jedinak just after halftime.
Tim Cahill’s powerful headed goal in the 51st minute kept the Socceroos in the contest, but he was denied by a string of fine saves by Oman’s Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali al-Habsi.
“I think we deserved the draw today. I knew we were close to the big teams than we were before, but each free-kick, each corner, we were in trouble,” Oman coach Paul Le Guen said.
Socceroos coach Holger Oseick was disappointed, particularly after describing the match as a “must-win” during the buildup.
“It was definitely not what we expected,” Oseick said of his team’s poor first half. “We had different hopes according to that game, but unfortunately the first half was not according to plan and we almost had to pay dearly for that.”