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Football: Asian Cup, Group D – Japan fire four past Palestine

Japan started their AFC Asian Cup defence with a 4-0 win over Palestine. Photos:

Japan started their AFC Asian Cup defence with a 4-0 win over Palestine. Photos:

January 12, 2015: Javier Aguirre has warned his Japan team not to lose focus after the defending champions kicked off the defence of their AFC Asian Cup title with a comfortable 4-0 win over debutants Palestine at Newcastle Stadium on Monday.


Iraq, the 2007 champions, produced a gritty 1-0 victory over 10-man Jordan at Brisbane Stadium to move level on points with Japan in Group D. Yaser Kasim scored a late, deflected winner following a barnstorming run into the area.


In Newcastle, Japan were rarely troubled by a resolute but limited Palestinian side, with Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida all scoring before Ahmed Mahajna was sent off 17 minutes from time.


“People may think Japan were superior over Palestine, but it wasn’t an easy game,” said Aguirre, who took over from Alberto Zaccheroni after last year’s FIFA World Cup. “They played and drew with China while Uzbekistan could score only one goal against them. They are a team that fights and it’s not easy to score against them and we scored four goals, so I’m very happy about that.


“I was happy and satisfied with the defence, but I saw some points to improve on the attacking side. We will have two or three days of training and I expect to improve those points through the training sessions. Because we won by four goals, I don’t want the players to lose their intensity, so I’ll take care of that in the meeting with the players.”


Southampton centre-back Maya Yoshida headed home Japan’s fourth.

Southampton centre-back Maya Yoshida headed home Japan’s fourth.

Japan took the lead in the opening game of their title defence after just eight minutes when Endo scored on his 149th appearance for the Samurai Blue, hitting the far corner of Ramzi Saleh’s goal with a low, bobbling shot from 25 yards.


Okazaki headed home from close range in the 25th minute before Honda made it 3-0 from the penalty spot after Shinji Kagawa had been bundled over in the box. Yoshida powered Kagawa’s corner beyond Saleh with a fine header four minutes after the restart, with Aguirre happy that his side started well before their meeting with 2007 champions Iraq in Brisbane on Friday.


“The best thing we achieved today was to win three points,” said the 56-year-old Mexican. “It was not an easy game for either team because of the strong wind. Our opponents’ goalkeeper made some great saves.


“There were also some points to improve and we’ll discuss those points in our next meeting. I don’t want to name or accuse one or two players because any mistakes made were by the team, not by players. In modern football it’s not easy to win by four goals so I am happy and I believe everyone should be happy with the win.”


Source: WSG / AFC Asian Cup (; Editing by SportAsia

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