Seigo Narazaki saved Japan's blushes by stopping Fouzi Bashir's second-half penalty as they ground out a 1-1 draw with Oman in their Asian FIFA World Cup™ qualifier Saturday. Narazaki's heroics came just moments after a 53rd-minute Yasuhito Endo penalty had cancelled out Ahmed Mubarak's 11th-minute opener at Royal Oman Police Stadium.
It kept Japan on course for a place in the final phase of qualifying for South Africa with seven points in Group 2, three clear of Oman with two games left to play. Leaders Bahrain take on Thailand later Saturday and will qualify if they win.
Mubarak gave Oman the lead when he lashed his left-foot shot beyond the outstretched arm of Narazaki from the edge of the penalty area. The goal saw the Omanis slip back into defensive mode, handing possession to the Japanese only for the three-time Asian champions to fail to take advantage of their dominance.
Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura saw his 27th minute free-kick headed over the bar by the home defence, and six minutes later he teed up Yoshito Okubo only for Ali Al Habsi to claw his shot to safety.
Japan came out firing in the second period and Endo was given the chance to pull his side level after Keiji Tamada was tripped by Ahmed Al Mukhaini. He made no mistake, nonchalantly rolling the ball to Al Habsi's left with the Bolton Wanderers goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men with 16 minutes remaining when Okubo was sent off for aiming a kick at Al Habsi and Khalifa Ayil was also sent for an early bath due to his participation in the ensuing melee.