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Last-minute goal puts Japan into Asian Cup final

Update: May, 23/2014 - 08:55
Japan wins China 2-1 in the semi-final match at the AFC Women's Asian Cup yesterday at Thong Nhat Stadium in HCM City.

HCM CITY (VNS) — Iwashimizu Azusa buried the winning goal in the final moments of the second 15-minute extra time to help Japan edge out China 2-1 in the semi-final match at the AFC Women's Asian Cup yesterday at Thong Nhat Stadium in HCM City.

Hawa Homare broke the deadlock with an angled header six minutes after the break but Li Dongna levelled the score just ten minutes from the full-time whistle with a penalty and forced two teams into a 30-minute extra time.

Iwashimizu Azusa nodded home the winning goal from the final corner of the extra time to see Japan advance to their fifth final, where they will face defending champions Australia, who overcame South Korea 2-1 after 90 minutes. Australia and Japan drew 2-2 in the group stage.

"As I imagined, it was a tough game. We wanted to win in 90 minutes but it went down to 120 minutes. Our players did a very good job today," Japan's coach, Sasaki Norio, said in the post-match press conference.

China's coach, Hao Wei, said he took responsibility for the defeat but praised his players for a good performance.

"It was a tough match today. As a coach, I take complete responsibility for the defeat. We had a little problem with defence with corner kicks but overall our players performed very well today," said Wei.

Despite getting off to a slow start, Japan set up its first opportunity five minutes after the opening whistle. Li Jiayue failed to clear the ball, allowing Takase Megumi, close behind Li, to grab possession and aim the ball at the nearest corner but the ball hit the side of the net.

China had their own chance in the 26th minute, with Li Ying collecting the ball from a pass on the right wing and aiming a low shot at the far corner, forcing keeper Fukumoto Miho into a diving save.

Some skilful work by midfielder Xu Yanlu soon resulted in a free kick for Li Dongna, who drove her shot inches over the bar.

Japan answered two minutes later with Utsugi Rumi missing a shot from the edge of the box by mere inches.

Japan launched a more focused attack in the second half, allowing Sawa Homare, who was voted as the most value player at the World Cup in 2011, to put the world champions ahead with an angled header just six minutes after the break.

China committed more players upfront to find the equaliser but were met by an even stronger defence. The Japanese side showed no sign of resting on their minor 1-0 lead, launching several attacks on Zhang's goal.

After misses from China's Dongna and Japan's Nakajima Emi, the score line finally changed in the 80th minute when Emi let her hands touch the ball and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

Dongna made no mistake by sending Fukumoto the wrong way to level the match. Both teams pushed for the wining goal in the remaining time but no goal was scored until the final whistle.

Japan, who made all three substitutions, showed a clear difference in strategy to China, who made their changes later in the second period of extra-time. China looked to be a stronger team in the extra time but failed to come close to scoring.

The match seemed destined for a penalty shootout until in a final attack by substitute Sugasawa Yuika, who launched a powerful volley at Zhang, who tipped the ball over the bar to give Japan the last corner.

In the decisive moment of the match, Iwashimizu rose high above the pack to nod home Miyama Aya's corner on the left wing just before the final whistle was heard. — VNS

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