Group B: Japan 4-2 Tajikistan
Taipei: Japan overcame a determined Tajikistan to register a 4-2 win in their opening Group B encounter at the AFC Futsal Championships 2018 on Thursday.
The Samurai Blue couldn’t have asked for a better start when they opened the scoring after just five seconds, thanks to a thunderous strike from Kazuya Shimizu on the right hand touch line.
Despite the early setback, Tajikistan regrouped and drew level five minutes later when Fayzali Sardorov pounced on a sloppy turnover by Kaoru Morioka and slid the ball past Higor Pires in the Japanese goal.
Japan showed their fighting spirit by hitting back almost straight away, going ahead again in the ninth minute when Kazuhiro Nibuya fired home from the right hand side.
Two minutes later and Japan’s lead was extended to 3-1 with arguably the goal of the game, with Japan’s incisive one-touch passing from their own half producing the perfect counter attack, with Tomoki Yoshikawa putting the ball on a platter for Shota Hoshi.
Just when Japan looked comfortable Tajikistan hit back again when Dilshod Salomov finished from an acute angle to bring it to 3-2 as the teams headed to the half time break.
Both sides continued to attack in the second half, with Japan in particular having a number of chances to add to their three goals from the first half.
It took until the 37th minute, when Tajikistan had deployed the powerplay, for Japan to get the better of Tajikistan’s resolute defence and put the game beyond doubt.
Playing up in midfield, goalkeeper Firuz Bekmurodov’s pass was intercepted and Morioka made no mistake from inside his own half to seal the three points for Japan.
Japan now look forward to a match against Korea Republic on Saturday, while Tajikistan must take on a rampant Uzbekistan, who had earlier defeated Korea Republic 13-2.
Huseyn Shodyev: Tajikistan Head Coach
We conceded an early good and lucky was not on our side but that's part of life. However, the spirit of the boys was evident. We stay together and fight together. Japan is one of the best teams in Asia, and we tried against the best.
Bruno Garcia: Japan Head Coach
"What was important today were the three points. The game was difficult against very strong opponents. Tajikistan depended on a compact defence and played on the counter. The next game we will improve. We need to score more, but we are growing and our level is increasing."