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AFC Asian Cup

AFC Asian Cup 2023: Four-time champions Japan beat Bahrain, reach quarters in style

Published at :January 31, 2024 at 7:59 PM
Modified at :January 31, 2024 at 7:59 PM
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(Courtesy : AFC)

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Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda earned the Samurai Blue a spot in the last eight.

Four-time champions Japan moved into the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 on Wednesday as goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda earned the Samurai Blue a 3-1 win over Bahrain at Al Thumama Stadium.

Hajime Moriyasu’s side will meet either the Islamic Republic of Iran or Syria in the last eight on Saturday after a largely accomplished performance, with the victory coming despite a wobble midway through the second half when Ueda headed the ball into his own net.

Doan put the Japanese in front in the 31st minute and Kubo doubled the lead three minutes into the second half before a 64th minute mix-up between Ueda and Zion Suzuki allowed Bahrain to halve the deficit. Ueda struck eight minutes later to restore the two-goal cushion.

The own goal was a rare moment of uncertainty for a Japan side that first forced Bahrain goalkeeper Ebrahim Lutfalla into action in the ninth minute, tipping Ueda’s header over the bar after the forward’s movement saw him find the space to power Kubo’s corner goalward.

Ali Madan brought a comfortable save out of Suzuki in a rare sortie forward for the Bahrainis, his shot from the edge of the area following a counterattack causing the Sint-Truiden goalkeeper few issues.

But just after the half hour mark the Japanese took the lead. Seiya Maikuma moved into space 25 yards from goal and unleashed a shot that beat Lutfalla before coming back off the post to Doan, who took a touch to control and then stroked home.

Ko Itakura headed Kubo’s free-kick into the penalty area wide of Lutfalla’s left post two minutes into the second half as the Japanese made a strong start to the second half and, a minute later, they doubled their advantage due to the quick thinking Kubo.

The Real Sociedad midfielder had won possession 25 yards from goal prior to playing towards  Ueda and, while the striker let possession roll beyond him, Hazza Ali steered the ball towards his own goal and onto the toe of Kubo, who slotted past Lutfalla.

Referee Ahmad Al Ali initially blew his whistle for offside before being called to the pitch-side monitor and awarding the goal on review.

The Japanese were cruising until Suzuki and Ueda clashed on their own line to steer Sayed Baqer’s header into the goal in the 64th minute to bring the Bahraini fans among the crowd back to life.

The hopes of Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side were to last only eight minutes, however, as Ueda’s burst of pace took him clear inside the Bahrain penalty area and his assured finish flew through the legs of Lutfalla to guarantee Japan’s progress.

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