Japan ease past Hong Kong
© AFP

Japan remain firmly on course for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after they comfortably overcame a spirited Hong Kong 4-0 on Wednesday 18 November in a one-sided qualifier.

A trademark left-footed free-kick from Espanyol midfield schemer Shunsuke Nakamura was the highlight of a routine win for the Samurai Blue against the Group A strugglers at a half-full Hong Kong Stadium.

After a spirited opening 15 minutes from the hosts, a strong Japan side began to get into their stride. The first real chance of the game came just after the quarter-hour mark, the home team, playing in all red, hacking the ball off the line with goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui left sprawled on the turf.

Japan, who have qualified for next year's FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa, finally broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion on 32 minutes, Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe scoring with a cracking shot from outside the box.

It was merely a question of how many after that as gaps opened up frequently in Hong Kong's overexposed and overworked rearguard. Daisuke Matsui was denied twice on the line in as many minutes as Hong Kong held on grimly at the end of the first-half.

Yoshito Okubo fired over on the hour after some naive home defending as the second period started off much as the previous half had finished. And on 74 minutes the away side went two goals up, substitute Hisato Sato heading home unmarked, much to the annoyance of the Hong Kong defensive line.

Nakamura then helped himself to the third before a fourth from the spot in injury time from Shinji Okazaki.