Ho Chi Minh City: FIFA Women’s World Cup holders Japan came back from two goals down to share a 2-2 draw with defending continental champions Australia in a thrilling Group A opener at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup at Thong Nhat Stadium on Wednesday.
Caitlin Foord opened the scoring after 22 minutes for Australia before Lisa De Vanna doubled the lead on 63 minutes after good work from Michelle Heyman.
Japan pulled one back five minutes later after Matildas’ captain Claire Polkinghorne netted an own goal and then completed the comeback with seven minutes remaining as first-half substitute Yuki Ogimi headed home a late equaliser.
With the tournament still in its opening rounds, Australia and Japan share second place behind Vietnam at the top of the Group A table after the hosts earlier recorded a 3-1 win over tournament debutants Jordan.
“We didn’t play well in the first-half or the first part of the second-half but my players didn’t give up and they scored twice to level the game, so I’m happy with their efforts,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki.
“I was expecting to use Ogimi in the second half, but towards the end of the first half I saw Australia begin to tire so I brought her on earlier than expected.”
In an explosive start to the clash of the Asian powerhouses, forward De Vanna hit the frame of the goal after just three minutes as her side-footed shot from just inside the penalty area zipped past Japan custodian Erina Yamane only to see the ball crash against the foot of the far post and ricochet to safety.
The tempo of the game calmed somewhat as both sides vied for control of the game before Foord swung the tie the defending champions’ way on 22 minutes.
A powerful, surging run from just inside the Japan half took the Matildas forward to the verge of the penalty area where she fired home past Yamane via the inside of the left-hand post.
In the latter half of the first period, though, the World Cup holders began to gain the upper hand with their eye-pleasing passing game clicking into gear but each carefully constructed move broke down against the solid Australian backline.
But as pressure mounted so did the influence of Nadeshiko playmaker Aya Miyama, and the two-time AFC Woman’s Player of the Year cleverly laid on a chance for first-half substitute Ogimi who forced Lydia Williams into a sprawling save to preserve Australia’s lead shortly before the half-time break.
Mirroring the start of the match, the second period also began with a quivering goal-frame, as after just two minutes of the re-start Miyama rattled the crossbar with a long range rocket that had Williams beaten.
Japan continued to dominate as Ogimi and then Megumi Takase went close to restoring parity with Williams’ goal leading a charmed life.
Japan paid for their prolificacy on 63 minutes, however, as on a rare Australia attack forward Heyman showed good strength to hold off two defenders and slide a pass across goal that eventually fell to the unmarked De Vanna who drilled the ball home into the far corner.
But just five minutes later it was Japan who had a lifeline as a Williams was finally beaten by a luckless Polkinghorne who turned Kawasumi’s dangerous left-wing cross past her own keeper.
And worse was to come for Australia as with just seven minutes of the tie remaining a rampant Japan brought the scores level with Kawasumi again the creator as the 28-year-old found Ogimi in the penalty area and she rose highest to head the ball past Williams to gain her side a deserved point.
“Any time you’re two goals up you’re disappointed you don’t win the game. But I’m still happy with the performance of the players in my first game in charge,” said Australia coach Alen Stajcic, who took over the role last month.
“Unfortunately it ended 2-2, but I felt either side could have won the game. Japan came back like champions in the second half and they pressed us hard and we tired.”
|1||YANG LI||CHINA P.R.||6|
|2||PARK EUN SUN||KOREA REPUBLIC||6|
|3||CHO SO HYUN||KOREA REPUBLIC||3|
|4||JEON GA EUL||KOREA REPUBLIC||3|
|Laws of The Game 2014/15|
|AFC Women's Asian Cup Vietnam 2014 (Marketing & Media Regulations)|
|AFC Equipment Regulations 2014|
|AFC Women's Asian Cup 2014 Final Competition Regulations|
|AFC Womens Asian Cup 2014 Qualifiers Regulations|
|General Stadium Regulations|
|Therapeutic Use Exemption Policy & Form|
|Anti Doping Regulations|