SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: A combination of shocking penalty misses from Japan stars Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa and UAE players holding their nerve have seen the Emirati minnows eliminate the reigning champions on penalties, 5-4 at Sydney’s Stadium Australia in front of 19,904 fans.
The result, the biggest upset of this Asian Cup, was guaranteed by substitute Ismail Ahmed who struck a ferocious winning penalty past Eiji Kawashima to send Mahdi Ali’s men into a semi-final against hosts Australia on Tuesday in Newcastle, New South Wales.
After Honda skied the first penalty of the game, each player scored until Khamis Esmaeel blasted high and wide to put the shootout back on level terms.
The sixth man to step up for Japan was Kagawa, the Borussia Dortmund man hitting the post to take the UAE to their first Asian Cup semi-final since being beaten finalists in 1996.
Ali Mabkhout’s glorious seventh-minute volley handed The Whites an early lead which the UAE desperately clung on to for eighty minutes as Japan laid siege on Majed Nasser’s goal time and time again.
A stubborn UAE defence was finally broken down in the 81st minute, substitute midfielder Gabu Shibasaki unleashing a wicked curling strike past the diving Nasser.
Superb all night, the UAE owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Nasser, who kept them in the game right up until the shootout..
His first big save came when after just 17 minutes as the Samurai Blue nearly had their equaliser after some fancy footwork from Gotoku Sakai on the right wing saw him beat Abdelaziz Sanqour all ends up, but Takashi Inui failed to convert a golden chance.
With the goal beckoning the unmarked Inui ghosted in at the back post only to head the ball straight at the Al Ahli stopper.
Japan were lively and comfortable on the ball, with most of their best play coming down their right flank. But Kagawa, Sakai, Honda and Shinji Okazaki were all left frustrated by a stout UAE defence.
It wasn’t until the 42nd minute of the half that Honda would have his first real chance as the AC Milan star darted inside the box off his left foot and unleashed a wicked strike that could only find the side-netting. The UAE breathed a sigh of relief but it was a sign of things to come.
It took nearly 50 minutes for Omar Abdulrahman to show the class that has won him many admirers Down Under, his deft flick over the top for a volleying Mabkhout almost leading to the striker’s second of the game.
Japan had several gilt-edged chances before Shibasaki finally struck a late bow and forced the game into extra time with his 81st minute goal.
The UAE held on to deny Japan with a combination of superb organisation and more than their fair share of good luck to send the match into an additional half an hour of extra-time.
Much of the same continued as Japan pushed forward and the UAE held firm.
And so it was left to a second penalty shootout of the day and the UAE’s heroes to step up to the mark and send their country through to the semi-finals. It also gave Omar the chance to showcase his talents once more with a sublime paneka that showed off the youngster’s outrageous ability and confidence.
Oh Omar… https://t.co/qAdK2VjDwq
— Sport360° (@Sport_360) January 23, 2015
South Korea beat Uzbekistan 2-0 in extra time to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Cup in Melbourne, while hosts Australia defeated China 2-0.
Tim Cahill scored a brilliant bicycle-kick and a trademark header as Australia downed brave China 2-0 to reach the Asian Cup semi-finals on Thursday.
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Cahill took his record tally of goals for Australia to 39, and few have been as important as his second-half strikes to put the hosts into the last four.
It was a dour opening 45 minutes, with the game only coming to light four minutes after half time when Cahill worked his magic.
China cleared the ball from a corner but only as far as Ivan Franjic, who put a looping header back into the box.
An acrobatic Cahill met the cross with an overhead bicycle kick angled past Wang.
Cahill then scored his second in the 65th minute when his pinpoint header from Jason Davidson's cross gave Wang no chance.
South Korea's golden boy Son Heung-Min struck twice in extra time to give the Taeguk Warriors a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in a nail-biting Asian Cup quarter-final on Thursday.
The man dubbed "Sonaldo" by his team-mates scored with a diving header after 104 minutes and slammed home a second moments before the final whistle, leaving on a stretcher with exhaustion as the Koreans set up a meeting against either Iran or Iraq in the last four.
The Koreans continued to press throughout the game, a mazy run from Son taking him past three players only to be robbed by a last-ditch tackle as he prepared to pull the trigger.
But as both teams began to wilt, Son popped up to glance Kim Jin-Su's dinked cross past Nesterov's despairing dive before collapsing to the turf with fatigue.
Having broken the pain barrier just to reach extra time, Son capped a gutsy display by smashing home from close range, after a lung-busting charge down the right from substitute Cha Du-Ri, to leave the Uzbeks shattered.