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Tokyo Olympics - Group E: Japan fight back to hold Canada

Sapporo: Japan came from behind to force a 1-1 draw with Canada in their opening Tokyo Olympics Women's Football tournament Group E tie at the Sapporo Dome on Wednesday.

Christine Sinclair opened the scoring in the sixth minute to give Canada the lead but Japan dug deep despite a missed penalty to force the draw with Mana Iwabuchi finding the back of the net in the 84th minute.

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The contest began with Mana Iwabuchi making a long-range effort in the third minute to signal Japan’s intentions but it was Canada who took the lead three minutes later.

The move began with Nichelle Prince whipping a cross into the box that found Christine Sinclair, who reacted quickly after her first shot deflected off the left post to fire home the rebound in her 300th appearance for Canada.

Unfazed by the early deficit, Japan piled forward in search of the equaliser with Risa Shimizu and Yuzuho Shiokoshi threatening on the right flank but the Canadian defenders were quick to thwart any danger.

Japan’s best chance of the opening half came in the 44th minute with Mana Iwabuchi setting up Shimizu at the edge of the box but the defender sent her effort wide.

Japan head coach Asako Takakura sent on Mina Tanaka in the second half and she had an immediate impact as Canada ‘keeper Stephanie Labbe brought her down in the penalty box as the Japanese player closed in on a cross.

After a VAR review by referee Edina Alves, Japan were awarded a penalty but Labbe atoned for her mistake to save Tanaka’s spot-kick.

Japan suffered a scare on the hour-mark when Canada’s Janine Beckie found the back of the net following a corner kick, but much to the home team's relief, the goal was ruled offside.

Japan, silver medallists in the 2012 Olympics, had a golden opportunity in the 77th minute when Rui Hasegawa curled in a sublime cross but substitute Jun Endo was unable to connect, but Japan’s persistence was rewarded seven minutes later when Iwabuchi collected a deep cross from inside the Japan half, surged forward and flicked the ball into the net.

Boosted by the equaliser, Japan pressed forward for a second goal but Canada defended in numbers as the teams settled for a share of the points.

Japan will look to secure their first win of their campaign when they face Great Britain on Saturday with Canada playing Chile. Britain defeated Chile 2-0 earlier on Wednesday.

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