Japan edge past Socceroos, North Korea grab draw

AFP, HWASEONG, South Korea

Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 18

Japan edged out Australia 3-2 in their East Asian Cup men’s match on Thursday thanks to goals by a pair of international rookies.

Yuya Osako scored twice in the second half after Manabu Saito opened the scoring in the first half for Japan, who earned their first win of the tournament at Hwaseong Stadium, south of Seoul.

Osako, in his first international match, broke a 2-2 deadlock with his second goal of the game in the 79th minute, barely a minute after the Socceroos pulled even when Tomi Juric scored.

Alberto Zaccheroni completely overhauled his Japan starting lineup from Sunday’s 3-3 draw against China.

For Australia, Holger Osieck trotted out the same starting XI that he used in the scoreless draw with South Korea last Saturday.

After a feeling-out period, Saito put Japan ahead in the 25th minute with his first international goal. He took a pass near the penalty area and dribbled toward the right edge of the box, before chipping one out of Eugene-Josip Galekovic’s reach into the Australia net.

Japan threatened to go two up 11 minutes later, but Yohei Toyoda’s header from a Hiroki Yamada cross was hit straight at Galekovic.

Australia tried to mount a comeback when Matthew McKay volleyed a loose ball high over the bar in the 40th minute and they showed more life at the start of the second half, but Japan pulled away in the 55th minute.

Osako received a nifty pass from Toyoda just outside the penalty area and dribbled in between two Australia defenders, before calmly slotting the ball past Galekovic.

With Japan seemingly in control, Australia cut the lead when Mitchell Duke caught the Japan defense napping in the 75th minute.

The goal gave Australia a new lease of life and Juric netted the equalizer thanks to a great individual effort from the edge of the penalty area.

Japan blew a two-goal lead in the second half against China last weekend, but Osako ensured they bagged three points on Thursday night.

Japan play their final match against South Korea on Sunday, while Australia’s last game is against China on the same day. Both matches take place in Seoul.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea held World Cup champions Japan to a scoreless draw in the women’s tournament.

North Korea controlled the pace for most of the first half, with Ri Ye-gyong hitting the crossbar just before the break.

Japan made some last-ditch efforts to beat their fatigued opponents, but Hong Myong-hui stood her ground in the North Korea net to keep the match scoreless.

The women’s competition wraps up on Saturday in Seoul, with North Korea taking on China and Japan facing South Korea.