Naohiro Takahara’s two clinical finishes and Shunsuke Nakamura’s penalty handed Japan a comfortable 3 – 1 victory over the United Arab Emirates in their 2007 Asian Cup encounter at Ha Noi’s My Dinh Stadium on Friday.
|Japan's Naohiro Takahara (left) celebrates with his teammate after scoring a goal against the UAE|
The result saw the winless UAE burn out of this year’s competition and the defending champions replace co-host Viet Nam at the top of group B.
Eintracht Frankfurt striker Takahara put the Japanese in front with a fine header from inside the box and grabbed his second goal five minutes later with a crisp finish from close range.
Celtic midfielder Nakamura then scored his first goal in the competition from the penalty spot before Saeed Alkas netted the UAE’s consolation goal 21 minutes into the second half.
The Gulf Cup’s holders looked the livelier side in the opening exchanges, but Japan took the lead against the run of play.
Five minutes later prolific Takahara doubled Japan’s lead with his third goal in two games when stabbing home Akira Kaji’s cross from the right flank.
Nakamura picked up the ball from Yasuhito Endo’s corner and his wing cross from the touchline found Takahara, who made no mistake as he netted in with a fine header.
With five minutes before the interval, goalkeeper Majed Nasser conceded a penalty when he fouled Endo and Nakamura made it 3 – 0, firing the ball into the roof of the net.
The UAE’s hopes were further dashed when Basher Saeed was sent off six minutes into the second half after a lunge at Keita Suzuki that left the Urawa Reds midfielder in a heap in the centre circle.
Nakamura then forced from stopper Nasser a top quality save to deny his superb free kick in the 55th minute.
Bruno Metsu’s side reduced the deficit only in the 66th minute when Saeed Alkas slid the ball past goalkeeper Kawaguchi in a one-on-one challenge.