Japan 2 Scotland 1: Takakura's charges top Group D

After a frustrating goalless draw with Argentina in its opening game, Japan claimed a win over Scotland.

Yuika Sugasawa's (second from left) spot-kick proved to be the winner for Japan against Scotland in the Group D fixture on Friday.   -  AFP

Japan moved top of Group D at the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 win over Scotland in Rennes on Friday.

The 2011 champion, which was beaten in the final last time out, followed up its opening-game draw against Argentina with a deserved three points over a Scotland team whose hopes of progression appear slim. 

Asako Takakura's side led midway through the first half courtesy of Mana Iwabuchi's powerful strike, which appeared to take goalkeeper Lee Alexander by surprise.

Referee Lidya Tafesse then awarded a soft penalty following Rachel Corsie's minimal contact with Yuika Sugasawa, who managed to pick herself up to convert the spot-kick.

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Scotland, beaten by England in its first game, grabbed an excellent late consolation from substitute Lana Clelland but will need to beat Argentina to have any chance of going through.

Jun Endo headed an early chance straight at Alexander after getting on the end of Risa Shimizu's teasing cross.

Japan continued to threaten and Emi Nakajima shot narrowly wide following promising build-up play that culminated with Sugasawa's chipped cross to the far post.

GROUP D STANDINGS

The seemingly inevitable breakthrough arrived in the 23rd minute, Iwabuchi's rocket catching Alexander flat-footed.

Shelley Kerr's women needed to muster a response but Sugasawa's penalty before the break made its task even tougher.

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It was spared further first-half punishment when Hina Sugita's shot on the turn cracked against the crossbar.

Alexander made a smart stop to deny Nakajima before the hour mark, while Erin Cuthbert struck the upright from a tight angle as Scotland showed signs of life.

Its frustration will have grown when Cuthbert was bundled over in the box, her appeals dismissed by Tafesse, with Clelland's long-range strike ultimately coming too late to save them.

Key Opta Facts

- Japan won none of its first nine Women’s World Cup games against European opposition (W0 D1 L8) but has since won six in a row.
- All four of the goals Scotland has conceded at the Women’s World Cup have been scored in the first half, while both of its goals have been scored in the second half.
- Clelland's goal for Scotland was only the second goal Japan has conceded in its last five Women's World Cup group games.
- Scotland has conceded a penalty goal in each of its two Women's World Cup matches, becoming only the third nation to do so in its first two matches in the competition, along with Switzerland and Ecuador (both 2015).

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