Sharjah: Japan stayed on track for a record-extending fifth title after defeating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16 tie at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
Defender Takehiro Tomiyasu’s thumping header in the 20th minute set up an enticing encounter with Vietnam, who beat Jordan on penalties, in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Three-time champions Saudi Arabia dominated the tie but Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men couldn’t find a way past the resolute Japanese defence as the West Asians wait – their last title having been won in 1996 – continues.
Saudi Arabia didn’t waste any time in getting into their groove as Mohammed Al Fatil sneaked in a header from the centre of the box from a set-piece situation, but the defender placed it wide of the mark.
Japan came close six minutes later with Ritsu Doan finding space in the danger area after collecting Takumi Minamino’s pass but saw his effort blocked by the Saudi defence.
Pizzi’s men increased their pace and could have gone in front in the 15th minute but Abdulaziz Al-Bishi and Hussain Almoqahwi squandered their chances.
Japan, having played mostly on the counter, upped their tempo and were rewarded with the opening goal in the 20th minute as Tomiyasu rose the highest to nod the ball home, his first goal for the Samurai Blue.
Stunned, Saudi Arabia took charge of possession but found the Maya Yoshida-marshalled Japanese defence impossible to breach.
With five minutes left in the half, Saudi had their best chance at goal when Hatan Bahebri muscled his way into the box, but his curling shot flew past the right post, as Japan stayed ahead going into the break.
The first half statistics had Saudi Arabia controlling 70 percent of possession and the West Asians maintained their stranglehold on the match in the second half, almost finding the equaliser through Salem Al Dawsari but Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was equal to the effort.
Japan responded a minute later, Yoshida connecting with a header from Shibasaki’s delivery but Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais collected it safely.
Saudi Arabia continued to dominate possession but could not convert their chances with Salem Al Dawsari and Bahebri both failing to find the target.
The Green Falcons had another opportunity in the 73rd minute when Abdullah Otayf found Almoqahwi lurking in the box but the midfielder sent his header high above the bar as Japan soaked up the pressure to seal their quarter-final spot.
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation WEBSITE