Japan reaches Asian Cup quarters

Japan’s players celebrate at the end of the AFC Asian Cup match against Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium Monday. — Reuters

SHARJAH — A first-half goal from Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to send Japan into the Asian Cup quarterfinals for the eighth consecutive tournament after a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium Monday.

The Saudis, looking to end a 23-year drought since their third continental title, paid the price for failing to convert their chances and so the four-time champion Samurai Blue progress to face Vietnam Thursday.

Japan went in front in the 20th minute when defender Tomiyasu rose above a Saudi defender in the center of the box to head a corner into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Saudi Arabia dictated play in both halves but was simply unable to finish in front of goal as the Samurai Blue defenders put in a solid shift.

Midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari had a golden opportunity to put the Green Falcons level in the 62nd minute but sprayed the ball over the bar with a right footed shot from the centre of the box.

Moments later defender Ali Hadi Al-Bulayhi guided the ball well over the bar with a free header after an inviting Al-Dawsari cross into the penalty area.

Japan, which claimed its last title in 2011, had won all three of its previous tournament matches to finish top of its group, while Saudi Arabia finished second in its group. — Reuters