VIENTIANE (8 June 2012) – Japan came back from a goal down to beat Australia 3-1 in the final to lift the AFF Under-16 Preparatory Tournament title this evening at the Laos National Stadium.
“We played against a strong team and we conceded the early goal,” said Ejiri Atsuhiko, the chief coach of Japan after the match. “But we had a lot of heart and we never lost focus for the win.”
The last time the two sides met was on the first day of the competition which resulted in a 1-1 draw. But this time round, there was a feeling right from the onset that things will be different.
Whereas Japan were reserved in their first encounter, this evening the side from the land of the rising sun went forward from the get go as they pressed Australia in their own half. But it was to be the Australians who had the first real look at goal and they made it count to grab the lead just eight minutes into the tie.
A seemingly innocuous corner was cleared by Japanese defender Maetani Takahiro but the fall fell onto the path of Daniel Da Silva, whose half volley left keeper Nagasawa Yuya no chance at all.
But Japan never lost shape and after some persistence, earned a penalty in the 16th minute when Darcy Madden tripped Nakajo Masayoshi inside the box. Referee Mohamed Yazeen Buhari did not hesitate to point to the spot as Miyamoto Kota sent the ball to the left to leave Jordan Thurtell stranded.
Australia had a good chance to put their noses in front in the 31st minute but after picking up on a defensive lapse, Joshua McDonald just could not find the right finish to the opportunity presented to him.
With the score tied 1-1 at the end of the first half, Australia began stronger after the breather with a stiff grounder from Alexander Gersbach being cleared on the line. The introduction of Steve Kuzmanozski not too long afterwards added more pace and ideas to the Australian frontline but the Japanese defence stood firm as defender Miyahara Kazuya made a string of timely defensive blocks.
“We created a lot of chances and I felt that we did not deserve to lose tonight,” said Alistair Edwards, the chief coach of Australia. “But we had a great match and I think that the game against Japan was our best in four matches.”
But it was Japan who went ahead in the 79th minute when off a long pass from Watanabe Ryoma that sliced open the Australian defence, Kawata Kento ran in to put the ball beyond the reach of Thurtell.
And deep into injury time, Miyoshi Koji then added the third for Japan to lift the title.
AFF UNDER-16 PREPARATORY TOURNAMENT 2012
(All matches at the Lao National Stadium, KM16)
2 June 2012: AUSTRALIA 1 JAPAN 1 / THAILAND 0 LAOS 1
4 June 2012: JAPAN 3 THAILAND 0 / LAOS 2 AUSTRALIA 3
6 June 2012: AUSTRALIA 4 THAILAND 2 / JAPAN 3 LAOS 0
8 June 2012: LAOS 3 THAILAND 0 / JAPAN 3 AUSTRALIA 1