Japan satisfied coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s desire for “revenge” with a commanding 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Singapore.
The four-time Asian champions were held to a goalless draw by their opponents in Saitama in June and their veteran Bosnian boss was keen to see a much-improved performance in the return fixture.
He was not disappointed as goals from recalled forward Mu Kanazaki and the excellent Keisuke Honda were the least Japan deserved for a classy and dominant first-half showing.
Despite persistent pressure, Japan had to wait until the 88th minute for Southampton defender Maya Yoshida to add a third – crowning a fourth consecutive qualifying success that edges them a point ahead of Syria at the top of AFC Group E.
Singapore goalkeeper Izwan bin Mahbud was beaten for the first time in the 20th minute following sustained attacking play from a Japan line-up making light of key duo Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki looking on from the bench.
Honda’s lofted cross was headed down by Yoshinori Muto and Kanazaki took the ball on his chest before rifling a left-footed strike into the top corner.
Having marked his first international appearance for five years with a maiden goal, Kashima Antlers striker Kanazaki could have quickly added a second when he glanced wide another dangerous delivery from the right by Yosuke Kashiwagi.
Izwan got down to shovel a Honda free-kick out of the bottom corner, but the AC Milan midfielder was celebrating in the 26th minute as he crowned a sweeping team move with the aid of a deflection.
Kanazaki then pulled wide from inside the area and captain Makoto Hasebe – wearing a head bandage after being caught by Safuwan Baharudin’s flailing arm – fizzed a drive past the post as Japan threatened to pull further clear.
That theme continued in the second period as Honda sent a close-range header over in the 47th minute.
On a rare venture into Japan territory, Singapore almost pulled a goal back – Safuwan heading a hopeful free-kick narrowly wide – before Muto’s scissor-kick attempt from Honda’s volleyed cross did not achieve the desired result.
Japan’s attacking fluency briefly faded during the closing stages and Hafiz Abu Sujad wasted a headed opportunity – Singapore’s clearest chance from open play.
It was a fleeting moment of encouragement for the hosts as the offside flag denied Kanazaki a brace and Izwan plunged to his left to magnificently deny Honda.
Yoshida knew little about it when he added his name to the scoresheet – substitute Takashi Usami sending a drive through a crowded area that struck the centre-back on the shins and trickled home.
Singapore lie third in the group, two points behind Syria having played a game more.
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