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Asian Qualifiers - Group F: Japan keep perfect record with win over Tajikistan


Suita: Japan maintained their flawless record in Group F with a comfortable 4-1 win over Tajikistan on Monday, in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

The hosts took the lead after just five minutes, Miki Yamane’s incisive through ball met the run of Takuma Asano and when his attempt was charged down by a flying Rustam Yatimov, the ball broke only as far as Kyogo Furuhashi who fired into an empty net.

Japan’s advantage lasted just three minutes as a fine cross from Manucher Safarov reached the head of Ehson Panshanbe and he re-directed the ball smartly home past goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.

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Stung by conceding their first goal of the campaign, Japan cranked up the pressure on the visitors’ goal and it was Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino who put them back on top with five minutes of the half remaining.

Furuhashi turned from scorer to provider with a low cross that connected with the sliding Minamino (pictured below) who beat Yatimov at his near post and ensured his proud record of scoring in every one of Japan's Asian Qualifiers continued.

And the Samurai Blue needed just six minutes of the second half to add a slick third.

A passing move concluded with Yamane’s astute pass from the right finding Kento Hashimoto who picked out the bottom left-hand corner with a first-time finish.

Asano could, and perhaps should, have made it 4-1 with a pair of close-range chances just before the hour mark, but he was denied first by Yatimov and then less than a minute later by the pace of the pass across the face of goal.

If Japan’s third was well-worked, their fourth and final goal, on 71 minutes, was rather less easy on the eye.

Yatimov misplaced a pass out of goal to his defenders and only found Hayao Kawabe, who could scarcely believe his fortune as he rolled the ball into an unguarded net.

The result sees Japan extend their lead at the top of Group F to seven wins from seven, while Tajikistan remain in second on 10 points, three ahead of regional rivals Kyrgyz Republic.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men will return to Panasonic Stadium Suita on June 15 to conclude their Group F campaign against Kyrgyz Republic, who were defeated 1-0 by Mongolia earlier in the day, while the Tajiks will head to Yanmar Stadium Nagai to face Myanmar.

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