Japan put their opening Group B loss behind them with a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Thailand in Bangkok.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s men were beaten 2-1 by United Arab Emirates at the start of the month, but produced a dominant display on Tuesday to get off the mark.
Genki Haraguchi headed the visitors into a deserved first-half lead against a Thailand side who also suffered defeat last time out, going down 1-0 against Saudi Arabia.
Having squandered a lead against UAE, Japan left it late to put this one to bed, with the impressive Kawin Thamsatchanan beaten for a second time by Arsenal’s Takuma Asano 15 minutes from time.
Thailand’s disappointing evening got worse in the final few minutes, when substitute Prakit Deeprom was dismissed after picking up a second yellow.
Japan signalled their early intent when Keisuka Honda’s header back across goal from a searching delivery was cleared away from under his own crossbar by Tanaboon Kesarat inside the opening 10 minutes.
A brilliant save from Thamsatchanan denied Asano soon after as Japan continued to threaten in the opening stages.
And the pressure finally told when Hertha Berlin’s Haraguchi picked his spot with a well-taken header from the heart of the penalty area in the 17th minute.
Honda should quickly have made it 2-0, but the AC Milan midfielder failed to make contact with Asano’s pass along the edge of the six-yard box.
The one-way traffic continued and Thamsatchanan made two excellent stops before half-time, both from the lively Honda.
Japan’s profligacy was a theme of the second half, too, although Shinji Kagawa will have been relieved to see an offside flag raised after lifting his close-range shot over the bar.
Remarkably, the hosts could have snatched a late equaliser had Teerasil Dangda not shot straight at Shusaku Nishikawa after latching on to Chanathip Songkrasin’s clever reverse pass.
It would have been incredibly harsh on Japan, whose next qualifier is at home to Iraq, while Thailand – who saw Deeprom sent off at the death following a couple of clumsy challenges – head to UAE next month.
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