Kagawa strikes late to spare Japan blushes against Haiti

Shinji Kagawa came off the bench to net an injury-time equaliser and spare Japan’s blushes in a 3-3 friendly draw with Haiti at the Nissan Stadium on Tuesday.

Following a 2-1 win over New Zealand last Friday, it initially looked as though the Samurai Blue were going to rack up another victory as they build towards next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Despite coach Vahid Halilhodzic opting to give a number of his second-string players a runout in Yokohama, the hosts took control of proceedings early on.

First, Shu Kurata handed them the lead after just seven minutes when he was picked out by Yuto Nagatomo’s left-wing delivery and proceeded to send a perfectly-placed header into the top corner.

Ten minutes later, it was 2-0 and Kurata was again heavily involved as he raced through and, although his initial effort was saved, Kento Sugimoto was on hand to fire home the rebound.

Haiti managed to pull one back in the 28th minute when Kevin Lafrance broke free following a clever late run into the box, before poking his shot past the onrushing Masaaki Higashiguchi.

Japan continued to enjoy the dominant share of possession but, to the visitors’ credit, they showed plenty of endeavour against their more-illustrious opponents.

The equaliser arrived eight minutes after the restart when Duckens Nazon was left unmarked to sweep a cross from the right into the back of the net.

Then, in the 78th minute, it looked as though Haiti had pulled off a remarkable fightback when Nazon scored his second of the evening, finding space outside the area before unleashing a stunning strike into the top corner.

Just when it looked as though the Japanese were going to fall to an embarassing defeat, Kagawa came to the rescue as he latched onto Shintaro Kurumaya’s pass and calmly finished to force the draw.