Japan beats Australia ​in World Cup qualifier

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Japan jolted their flatlining World Cup qualifying campaign into life with a dramatic 2-1 home win over Australia on Tuesday.

An 86th-minute own goal from Australia’s Aziz Behich in Saitama gave Japan a crucial three points, having started Group B with two defeats from three matches.

Japan went into the game knowing anything less than a win would put them in serious danger of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

Perfect start
Ao Tanaka gave them the perfect start with the opening goal in the eighth minute, only for Australia’s Ajdin Hrustic to equalise with a 70th-minute direct free kick. But Behich turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Takuma Asano with four minutes remaining, keeping Japan in the hunt for one of Group B’s two automatic spots for Qatar 2022.

Wataru Endo flashed a header past the post in the sixth minute as Japan seized the early initiative, and the hosts ”did not have to wait long for the opening goal.”

Takumi Minamino played a low cross that Behich failed to cut out, and Tanaka was on hand to drill the ball past goalkeeper Maty Ryan.

Yuya Osako went close to adding another after running at the heart of the Australian defence in the 35th minute.

But the Socceroos almost equalised against the run of play when Adam Taggart shot against the post minutes before the interval.

Aaron Mooy also went close for the visitors early in the second half, before the Socceroos thought they were awarded a penalty when Hidemasa Morita tripped Hrustic.

The referee changed the decision to a free kick on the edge of the box after a VAR review, but Hrustic slammed the ball past Shuchi Gonda regardless.

Japan went in desperate search of a winner, with Ryan denying Junya Ito and substitute Kyogo Furuhashi before Behich scored in his own net with minutes remaining.

The result ended Australia’s record of 11 straight wins in one World Cup qualifying campaign.



AFP/Mercy Chukwudiebere

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