Japan fired a warning shot to their rivals in Asian qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 3-0 win over Oman on Sunday.
The hosts wasted little time, attacking frequently in the first 10 minutes and putting Oman under constant pressure.
With shots raining from all points the first goal was a matter of time, finally coming in the 12th minute when Yuto Nagatomo’s cross was volleyed in by Keisuke Honda with his left foot.
With most of the first half’s play taking place in the visitors’ half, most of the pressure fell onto Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, who saved several great chances but was himself saved by the official’s flag more than once before the half ended at 1-0.
Japan picked up where they left off after the half ended, pressing Oman hard before doubling their lead in the 51st minute after Kagawa skilfully faked a shot before passing to Ryoichi Maeda, who converted from close range.
The Jubilo Iwata veteran continued to demonstrate his mastery against Asian clubs, yet lagged in pace behind his Europe-based team-mates.
Just three minutes later, Shinji Okazaki capitalised on a defensive error to give Japan a 3-0 lead on a blistering shot. The goal came as a relief to the Stuttgart man after he failed to capitalise on multiple first-half opportunities.
It was only thanks to two last-minute saves by Al-Habsi against Honda and substitute Hiroshi Kiyotake that the Samurai Blue failed to expand their lead even further as they closed the match with a flurry of chances.
The victory in front of over 63,000 fans extended Japan’s record under Alberto Zaccheroni to 13-6-2.
Also in Group B, Jordan played out a 1-1 draw with Iraq in Amman.
Nashat Akram put Iraq in front after just 14 minutes but Zico’s side were unable to hang onto their lead, giving it away just two minutes before half-time.
Ahmad Hayel Ibrahim was the scorer as Jordan salvaged a point in front of their home fans.
In Group A, Iran upset Uzbekistan with a last-gasp 1-0 win in Tashkent.
Uzbekistan last lost a match at home in March 2010 against the United Arab Emirates.
But they were unable to score and Mohamad Khalatbari took advantage, netting the winner in the third minute of injury time.
The other match saw Qatar defeat Lebanon 1-0 in Beirut thanks to Sebastian Soria’s second-half goal.
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