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Ashgabat: Japan took a giant step towards retaining their title after Mutsumi Sakata’s double was enough to beat Islamic Republic of Iran in their Ashgabat 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games women's futsal semi-final on Sunday.

The defending champions, will face Thailand – who overwhelmed China PR 4-1 in the other semi-final tie – in the final.

Japan who beat hosts Turkmenistan 8-0 in their last group match, went ahead in the seventh minute through Sakata.

IR Iran came close to equalising seconds later only for Fereshteh Karimi’s shot to hit the crossbar as Japan were up by one at halftime.           

After the break, Sakata scored her third goal of the tournament, in the 25th minute, to give Japan a 2-0 lead.

"Since that day we have been looking forward to playing against Iran again," said goalscorer Sakata on gaining revenge for Iran's 1-0 victory against Japan at the AFC Championship two years ago.

“We expected to play against them in the final but it doesn't matter where we beat them as long as we win,” she added.

IR Iran, who had more shots on goal with 16 compared to Japan’s eight, could not find a way past their opponents, especially goalkeeper Ayaka Yamamoto as Japan held on for victory.

"We really had bad luck. The performance of my players was perfect. We created a lot of opportunities but we didn't score (39 attempts, 16 on target),” said a disappointed IR Iran coach Shahrzad Mozafar.

"Japan goalkeeper (Ayaka Yamamoto) had a very good day today. Just lack of luck on our side,” he added.

It only took Thailand’s Darika Peanpailun a minute to find the net past China goalkeeper Zhang Rui, but Fan Yuqiu levelled the score a minute later.

Sasicha Phothiwong’s brace in the sixth and 11th minute gave the 2013 bronze medallists a 3-1 lead at halftime.

However, luck was not on China’s side as they conceded an own goal through defender Zhang Yue’s error in the 29th minute.

Japan have the psychological advantage over Thailand - for tomorrow’s final - as they had beaten them 3-1 on penalties after 2-2 at extra time in the 2007 Macau edition.

Meanwhile, the third and fourth playoff will see IR Iran taking on China.

This will be IR Iran's second appearence for the bronze playoff. They previously lost 4-5 to Thailand in the 2009 Hanoi edition, while China will make their first appearance.


Semi-Finals

Results
Japan 2-0 IR Iran
Thailand 4-1 China PR

Sept 25

3rd/4th placing: IR Iran v China PR
Final: Japan v Thailand

Source: ashgabat.com