|Japanese foward Haohiro Takahara celebrates
his goal [AFP]
Japan took a big step toward the quarterfinals and ensured the United Arab Emirates became the first team eliminated from the Asian Cup after a 3-1 win victory.
The result moves Japan to four points from two games, equal with co-hosts Vietnam in Group B, meaning the teams need only draw when they meet on Monday in order for both to reach the quarterfinals.
Should there be a result either way in that match, the loser could be leapfrogged on goal difference by Qatar, should the Gulf side beat the United Arab Emirates in a simultaneous game.
The United Arab Emirates can not finish in the top two teams in the group, having lost both its fixtures thus far, and so become the first team out of the competition.
That extended the nation’s poor recent run in the Asian Cup. After making the semifinals in 1992 and the final in 1996, the United Arab Emirates failed to qualify in 2000 and were knocked out at the group stage in 2004 and now 2007.
The match was as good as over by halftime when Japan led 3-0.
Naohiro Takahara, of German club Eintracht Frankfurt, opened the scoring for Japan in the 22nd minute with a header after a cross from the left.
Japan continued to dominate the game and Takahara made it 2-0 five minutes later when he trapped a cross by Akira Kaji and fired home a powerful shot from a 17 meters.
A contentious penalty just before halftime saw Japan extend the lead, with Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura slotting home calmly from the spot.
Japan’s relentless attack paid further dividends in the second half when the United Arab Emirates defender Basheer Saeed was sent off for a violent tackle in the 53rd minute.
Playing with ten men, the Gulf side still managed to claw one goal back in the 66th minute courtesy of substitute forward Saeed Al Kaas.
The United Arab Emirates searched for a further goal to bring the match alive, but their numerical disadvantage and the authority of Japan prevented them finding it.