Japan blank Iran 3-0, enter AFC Asian Cup final


Japan blank Iran 3-0, enter AFC Asian Cup final
Japan's Osako Yuya (No 15) heads home past Iran goalkepeer Ali Reza Beiranvand in the Asian Cup semifinal.

Al Ain - Until half time the game very much looked to go either way

By Abhishek Sengupta

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Published: Mon 28 Jan 2019, 8:41 PM

Last updated: Tue 29 Jan 2019, 1:03 AM

Nine minutes. That's what forward Yuya Osako took as his brace helped Japan sink Iran en route to sealing their place in the final of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
A third goal in injury time by Genki Haraguchi was the perfect topping on a sushi that thousands of Japanese fans well and truly savoured under lights at the magnificent Hazza Bin Zayed stadium.
Haraguchi's 91st minute left footed shot from the left of the box to the centre of the goal from an assist by Takumi Minamino was a testament of how clinical they have been in this tournament as they now await the winner of the match UAE between Qatar for a historic 5th AFC Asian Cup title.
For a team that drew flak for 'winning ugly' earlier in the tournament - barely managing to scrape past Saudi Arabia and Vietnam by solitary goals - this game looked as if the one Samurai Blue had reserved to rise to the occasion and answer all those critics. And they did it in some style.
A brilliantly headed goal from close range by Osako in the 56th minute from a cross by Minamino from the left flank after he kept powering on despite being tackled, set the tone for Asia's number three team. Nine minutes later, Morteza Pouraliganji was found to have handled the ball in the penalty area as Aussie referee Christopher James Beath pointed to the penalty spot after minutes on the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Osako slotted in confidently to silence the boos of the Iranian fans.
However, the match could have finished very differently if - barely a minute before the handling incident - Pouraliganji's header from a cross by Ehsan Haji Safi off a corner had not gone wide. That in a way summed up the match for Carlos Quieroz's men who controlled the ball well in the middle but lacked the finishing in the final third despite 11 shots as opposed to Japan's seven - four of them on goal, one more than Iran.
However until half time the game very much looked to go either way just what many had predicted but if Iran failed to score then it was down to Japan's plucky goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda who came to the party as early as the third minute as he saved a menacing Sardar Azmoun right footer from the left side of the box.

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