Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu is confident his team will gather momentum and improve when it comes to the business end of the 2019 Asian Cup, following their qualification to the last 16 on Sunday.
The four-time champions edged out Oman 1-0, courtesy of a penalty from Genki Haraguchi, but once again they failed to impress at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“For our second match, we had the best preparation to win and advance from the group stage,” said Moriyasu. “It was a very difficult match but the important thing was the three points.
“Tonight, we created some early chances and had we scored from them, it could have made our game easier. We learnt a bit more from this game to prepare for the next.”
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Japan created plenty of early chances but failed to convert, until Haraguchi was fouled by Oman midfielder Raed Saleh in the area. The Japan midfielder picked himself up to fire home the spot kick that proved to be the only goal of the match.
Haraguchi had the first opportunity to put his side in front in the very first move of the game but his effort from crashed against the crossbar.
Takumi Minamino then had a couple of opportunities, but Oman goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi smothered his first chance in a one-on-one, before the Japan forward sent another shot wide.
Al Rusheidi was called into action again when he blocked a close range shot from Minamino, while Ritsu Doan’s powerful effort was headed off the goalline by Oman defender Khalid Al Braiki.
“We didn’t create as many chances [in the second half] as we did in the first half but we need to give credit to Oman for that because they applied the pressure and played with more power,” Moriyasu said.
“Things like this happen in football. The important thing was we didn’t concede any goals. Of course we need to improve more than we did in the first two games.”
Oman were unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty themselves in added time of the first half. Salaah Al Yahyaei’s powerfully struck shot hit the diving Yuto Nagatomo’s hand but Malaysian referee Amirul Izwan turned a blind eye despite strong protest from the Omanis.
Oman also had a chance to open the scoring when Muhsen Al Ghassani rounded Japan keeper Shuichi Gonda and rolled the ball towards the empty net, only to see it go agonisingly past the far post.
While Oman had their chances to get something from the game, manager Tim Verbeek admitted Japan deserved the victory, despite his side’s misfortune at not being awarded a penalty.
“We have to be fair also, as for the first 15 minutes, we were quite lucky the score was 0-0 because Japan had three to four open chances and our goalkeeper did some fantastic saves,” Verbeek said.
“We were a bit unlucky when Japan got a penalty on a 50-50 [decision], but it didn’t influence the game in the first half. We were also not lucky with a hand ball just before half time.
“In my opinion, having seen on television replays, it was a 100 per cent penalty. I’m not going to complain about that. We had a better second half but at the end of the game we lost power. We couldn’t give the last 10 per cent to make it really difficult for the Japanese team.
“However, Japan has the experience and the quality to keep the ball with them to kill the game, which they were doing in the second half.”
Japan round off their group stage against Uzbekistan at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Thursday, while Oman, after two defeats, meet Turkmenistan at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi at the same time.