Japan's Yuya Osako (top) scores during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group F match between Japan and Turkmenistan at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Jan. 9, 2019. Japan won 3-2. (Xinhua/Cao Can)
ABU DHABI, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Werder Bremen forward Yuya Osako scored twice as Japan held on nervously to beat Turkmenistan 3-2 in Group F of 2019 Asian Cup here on Wednesday.
It is Turkmenistan's second Asian Cup appearance but they did not show up like a minnow and earned respect after this thrilling match.
"We played a high quality game with an unexpected performance," said Turkmenistan head coach Yazguly Hojageldiyew, "We lost focus in the second half, meaning we are still an inexperience team. I hope we can grow up from this Asian Cup."
Turkmenistan shocked the four-time champions in the 26th minute when Arslanmurat Amanov scored perhaps the best goal of the tournament so far with a stunning strike from 35 yards out. The underdog should have doubled their lead 10 minutes later after Ahmet Atayev's powerful shot was blocked by Japan's goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
Japan, who have lost only one of their last 28 games at the Asian Cup, bounced back after the break. Yuya Osako arrowed a low shot into the net for the equaliser in the 56th minute and then put the Samurai Blue ahead thanks to the confusion in Turkmenistan defence 4 minutes later.
"We expected that it will be tough match, we had an disappointment first half but I told players to put more pressure on the opponent, I am glad that we came back after conceding a goal." said Japan coach.
The 20-year-old Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner in the 71st minute. Ahmet Atayev cut the deficit down to 2-3 for Turkmenistan from the penalty spot after Shuichi Gonda fouled Altymyrat Annadurdyyev in the penalty area.
Turkmenistan piled on the pressure but were unable to find a way to level the game as Japan held on to pursue their record-extending fifth time Asian Cup title with a winning start.
"Our target is to win the title, I hope the young players can face this challenge,if they can light up on the Asian Cup, it means a lot to their career and the development of Japanese football." Hajime Moriyasu said.