Japan beat China 2-1 in its final pool game but the result may not be enough for it to earn an Asian Champions Trophy semifinal berth.
Shota Yamada and Kentaro Fukuda’s goals here at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Wednesday gave Japan its first win of the tournament but a late goal conceded meant it remained outside the top four for the time being.
Japan moved level on points with South Korea and Pakistan but it is outside the top four due to an inferior goal difference of -2. A defeat for Pakistan later in the day by a goal margin of two or a South Korea loss by a margin of two or more goals will take Japan into the semifinals.
In its first four games, Japan only had two penalty corner conversions from 11 attempts. Japan earned its first short corner in the eighth minute against China and it went ahead through Yamada, who arrowed in his dragflick from the right battery. The postman managed to get his stick to it but couldn’t stop the ball from ricocheting into the net.
Japan dominated possession, but every time China won the ball to start a counter-attack, its execution in finding the killer pass was missing, reversing the pressure back on it. Both teams conceded possession to each other with their misplaced passes, which made the contest end-to-end, but severely lacking in quality.
Japan thought it had a penalty stroke in the 29 th minute when it seemed Ao Weibao had stick-checked Kaito Tanaka, who attempted to sweep home a rebound from a drag-flick, but a Chinese video referral deemed it a legal tackle and helped overturn the decision.
Japan defender Yamato Kawahara was a rock at the back for most of the game, being in the right place to intercept passes into the circle, remaining strong in one-on-one situations and having the pace to get ahead of the Chinese attackers.
But Japan lost its composure in trying to play out from the back in the final quarter as China regularly pinned it down in its own half. Japan got a second goal in the 54 th minute when Fukuda slid in to squeeze the ball into the net from a Ken Nagayoshi drag-flick in what was the team’s fifth penalty corner.
Despite the 2-0 lead, China kept piling the pressure and Japan’s defence finally cracked in the 59 th minute when Ao Suozhu shielded the ball from an Ao Weibao pass before scooping the ball over the keeper Takashi Yoshikawa and into the net.
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