Japan strike late to win gold
Palembang: Substitute Yuika Sugasawa’s 90th minute goal secured Japan the 2018 Asian Games Indonesia women’s football tournament gold medal, beating China PR 1-0 in the final on Friday.
Korea Republic clinched the bronze medal after cruising to a 4-0 win over Chinese Taipei in the play-off at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium.
GOLD MEDAL MATCH: JAPAN 1-0 CHINA PR
Japan and China met last April in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where the Nadeshiko came out 3-1 victors to progress to the final and eventually defend their title.
However, it was the Steel Roses who looked more likely to open the scoring in the Asian Games final as they applied heavy pressure from the start and forced custodian Ayaka Yamashita into making several fine saves.
Japan made the occassional foray upfront but the Chinese backline, which had not conceded a single goal in their five previous games, held firm.
Wang Shanshan, who had 12 goals to her name going into the final, was a threat in the second half but was caught by the offside trap numerous times.
As the game progressed into the fnal 30 minutes, Japan slowly found their footing and began testing Chinese ‘keeper Zhao Lina, while Wang Shuang came extremely close in the 62nd minute when a cross found her behind Japanese lines but she shot wide.
Just when it looked like extra time would be needed, Japan moved on a counter-attack that saw Yui Hasegawa surge down the right flank before sending a brilliant cross into the box.
It found surging substitute Sugasawa, who stooped low to head the ball in to seal the win in dramatic fashion.
BRONZE MEDAL PLAY-OFF: KOREA REPUBLIC 4-0 CHINESE TAIPEI
Korea Republic had the psychological advantage going into the match, as they had scored a 2-1 win over Chinese Taipei in their Group A opener, and the Taeguk Ladies dominated possession from the start.
Chinese Taipei, forced into their own half, tried to keep a compact backline but couldn't hold out under incessant Korean pressure and cracked in the 18th minute.
A quick interplay between Lee Geum-min and Ji So-yun at the edge of the box created enough space for Ji to unleash a right-footed strike to the top right corner of the net to open the scoring.
Korea Republic continued to dominate the game, and in the 31st minute, Lee etched her name on the scoresheet with a sublime header, courtesy of Jang Sel-gi’s cross into the box.
Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Tsai Ming Jung made some impressive saves against Lee and Jang in the final 10 minutes of the first half, while her opposite number Yoon Young-geul was hardly forced into action.
Hiroyuki Horino’s charges returned into the second half more lively but their runs into the final third were constantly cut short by a Korean side that reacted quickly in defence.
Chinese Taipei suffered a further setback in the 77th minute when Lee Min-a sidestepped two defenders before beating ‘keeper Tsai to score her third goal of the tournament.
Moon Mira ended proceedings with her 90th minute volley to seal Korea Republic’s third consecutive bronze medal at the Asian Games.
Asian champions Japan will face China PR in the final later on Friday.
Photos: AFP, INASGOC