Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura scored one and set up another
as Japan beat Oman 3-0 in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™
qualifier today. It was an impressive return to form for the
Japanese after their shock 1-0 loss to Bahrain in their last
qualifier in March.
The victory was, however, insufficient for Japan to close ground on Group 2 leaders Bahrain, who beat Thailand 3-2 to reamin three points clear of the East Asians.
Skipper Yuji Nakazawa opened Japan's account in the tenth minute. When Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo lofted the ball in from a corner, the big defender headed home the opener.
Japan were making all the running and they went two up 12 minutes later when Nakamura sent a long ball into the Omani box, which was picked up by Brazilian-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka. He found Yoshito Okubo who made no mistake with his finish.
Four minutes after the break Nakamura put the game beyond doubt, latching on to a ball just outside the area and letting loose a rocket that gave goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi no chance.
The Japanese maintained the pressure and Nakamura went close several times with his trademark free-kicks. "It was good that we were ready to fight from the very beginning. I expected one goal to be decisive, but Okubo and the others worked hard to get this result," said Nakamura.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada was equally satisfied. "We got pretty good rhythm from the beginning. The early first goal made it a bit easier for us, but my players slowed down afterwards," he said.
"But the early goal in the second half made us comfortable. However, Oman were not the real Oman today. I don't think we got past a mountain yet. I think we just made one step forward," added Okada.
Oman, who remained on three points, hardly created a chance and
will need to rethink their tactics ahead of the return leg at home
on Saturday, although their Uruguayan coach Julio Cesar Ribas
Vlahovich lamented that was missing five regular players due to
accumulated yellow cards and injuries. "Japan deserved the
victory today," he nonetheless admitted.
"Their tactics to score goals worked very well. They seemed to play calm after they took the first goal in the tenth minute. My players can play better, but the early goal made them rush too much and they couldn't play their normal game."