Late winner sends Japan through

Japan booked their place in the final of the AFC U23 Championship after beating Iraq 2-1 at Doha’s Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium on Tuesday.

Forward Yuya Kubo gave Japan the lead in the 26th minute, but shortly before the half-time break Iraq defender Saad Natiq equalised to set up a potentially exciting second half.

With the match seemingly destined for extra time and potentially penalties, Riki Harakawa found the back of the net in the third minute of stoppage time to send Makoto Teguramori’s side through to the final.

Both sides showed a fair amount of attacking intent in the opening exchanges, but it wasn’t until the 26th minute that the first real goal-scoring opportunity was created.

Japan striker Musashi Suzuki found space down the left flank and his pin-point cross left Iraq goalkeeper Fahad Talib with no chance and a sliding Kubo made no mistake with the shot from six yards out

Japan had the better of the remainder of the first half, but were unable to turn their supremacy into more goals and two minutes before half-time, Natiq headed home from the edge of the six yard box after Japan goalkeeper Masatoshi Kushibiki flapped at a Amjed Hussein corner and Natiq’s initial shot.

Iraq had the only real chance of the second half, as Kushibiki pushed Amjad Attwan Kadhim’s strike from outside the penalty area over the crossbar.

With extra-time looming, Takumi Minamino’s cleared cross fell to Harakawa just outside the penalty area and he rifled his shot home to secure the victory for Japan.

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