Defender Stanislav Manolev put Bulgaria on the path to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Asian champions Japan on Thursday in a warm-up game for the teams’ World Cup qualifiers.
The visitors took the lead after just three minutes when Manolev hit a sizzling shot from a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima managed to punch the ball, but it still ended up in the back of the net.
In the 70th minute, substitute midfielder Hristo Zlatinski hit another free-kick into the area. VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe tried to clear, but manged only to score an own-goal.
The Asian champions had a chance to even the score in the 23rd minute when Eintracht Frankfurt’s Takashi Inui fired a shot from a Yasuhito Endo pass, only to hear the whistle for offside.
In the World Cup qualifiers, Bulgaria are currently second in European Group B, trailing Italy by three points. They play Italy in their next qualifier in September.
Japan lead Asian Group B with 13 points, ahead of Jordan on seven points, and Australia and Oman on six. Japan play Australia in Saitama, Japan, on Tuesday.
“We wanted to get the momentum with a win, but I was disappointed that we lost. I also gave away an own-goal,” Hasebe said. “We must improve our form in the next few days.”