HANOI, July 13 (Reuters) - Japan got their bid for a third successive Asian Cup title firmly back on course with a convincing 3-1 victory over United Arab Emirates on Friday.
Striker Naohiro Takahara scored twice as Japan rebounded
from a disappointing 1-1 draw with Qatar in their opener to go
top of Group B on goal difference above co-hosts Vietnam.
'It was so hot that it was hard to play... 45 minutes was
difficult enough,' Japan's enigmatic Bosnian coach Ivica Osim
'But obviously the ball never gets tired. It was important
that we had about 95 percent of the possession and just wore UAE
down by controlling the tempo.'
Takahara, who played despite suffering from a fever he
picked up on the evening of the game, put Japan in front after
22 minutes with a powerful header.
The former Boca Juniors forward who now plays for Eintracht
Frankfurt doubled Japan's lead five minutes later, volleying
home from 20 metres for his third goal of the tournament.
Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura added a third goal from
the penalty spot four minutes before halftime to kill off a game
played in sweltering conditions in Hanoi.
UAE's plight went from bad to worse to worse when Basheer
Saeed was sent off for a nasty foul on Keita Suzuki eight
minutes into the second half.
The Gulf Cup holders managed a consolation goal in the 66th
minute through Saeed Al Kaas but it came too late to prevent
them becoming the first team eliminated from the Asian Cup.
'I lost two kilos just watching because of the heat,' said
UAE coach Bruno Metsu. 'If you don't fight with every last drop
against Japan you have no chance.'
The Frenchman added: 'Japan are the best team in Asia and
they have the individual players who can turn a game.'
Japan face Vietnam and Qatar meet UAE in the final round of
Group B games on Monday. This year's Asian Cup is being staged
jointly by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.