Japan fightback: Osako double provides spark as Blue Samurai overcome Turkmenistan

Sports | 10 Jan 2019

Yuya Osako netted a quickfire double as four-time champions Japan survived a scare to beat Turkmenistan 3-2 in their Asian Cup opener.

The Blue Samurai reached the last 16 of last year's World Cup but they had to fight back from a goal down at half-time in the Group F clash in Abu Dhabi. Turkmenistan captain Arslan Amanov put the underdogs ahead after 26 minutes, unleashing a ferocious long-range drive that arrowed into the top corner.

But Osako produced a smart turn and finish inside the box to equalize for Japan 10 minutes into the second half after sustained pressure from the Blue Samurai. The Werder Bremen striker put Japan in front four minutes later, tapping into an empty net after Yuto Nagatomo's dinked pass over goalkeeper Mammet Orazmuhammedow.

Ritsu Doan added a deflected third after 70 minutes, but Ahmet Atayev smashed in a penalty 11 minutes from time for the Emeralds to ensure a nervous finish for the Japanese.

Japan are playing without midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki.

Meanwhile, organizers condemned Saudi-backed pirate broadcasts of games stolen from Qatari rights holder BeIN Sports.

The Asian Football Confederation said it "already instructed counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia" and is working with other sports bodies affected. The broadcast conflict is a proxy fight in the 19-month political and logistical boycott of Qatar by regional rivals including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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