Japan have claimed one of London 2012’s biggest upsets thus far with a 1-0 win over Spain that leaves them top of Group D. Yuki Otsu scored the decisive goal in front of 37,326 at Hampden Park, and the victory was no more than the Asian underdogs deserved against a sluggish Spain side for whom Inigo Martinez was sent off.
The warning signs were there for the Spanish from an early stage, with Kensuke Nagai testing David de Gea inside two minutes with a left-foot volley the goalkeeper was able to comfortably hold.
The world champions, on the other hand, were strangely subdued, although Juan Mata did provide a flash of inspiration, drifting in from the right wing and crashing in a low left-foot shot that Shuici Gonda did well to shovel behind for a corner.
Japan were more than holding their own, though, and it wasn’t entirely unexpected when they took a 34th-minute lead. The goal - the first conceded by Spain against Asian opposition at the Olympics - emanated from an inviting, inswinging left-footed corner from Takahiro Ohgihara, with Otsu able to nip in ahead of marker Martin Montoya to prod the ball home.
Spain were stunned, and within three minutes they nearly gifted their lively opponents a second when Alvaro Dominguez’s misdirected back-pass was intercepted by Hiroshi Kiyotake. Scarcely able to believe his luck, the Japan No17 succeeded in dribbling around De Gea but, from an acute angle, was unable to find the far corner of the net with his left-foot shot.
La Roja might have enjoyed a lucky escape on that occasion, but their hopes suffered another blow four minutes before the interval when Martinez, having been robbed by and then hauled back Nagai, was sent off for a professional foul.
This further compounded Luis Milla’s side's inability to dominate possession, and the second half began with Japan very much on top.
Indeed, only a flying De Gea save prevented Keigo Natsuri from doubling their lead, while Nagai missed two glaring opportunities in identical fashion, sliding left-foot shots wide of the far post with the goal seemingly at his mercy.
At the other end, Spain’s normally incisive passing continued to desert them, and they now face two vital matches against Honduras and Morocco if they are to avoid an early Olympic exit.