MATCH REPORT: Japan 5-1 Uzbekistan

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Japan v Uzbekistan - International Friendly

strolled to victory over fellow Asian Cup quarter finalists in front of a packed Tokyo Stadium crowd.

The White Wolves brought a squad composed almost entirely of players who appeared in the Asian Cup to Japan, featuring rising star Sardor Rashidov.

Meanwhile, Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic fielded a lineup completely changed from the 11 players who took the pitch against Tunisia on Friday.

But while Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa made their first start under the former Algeria coach, it was Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama who scored the first goal of the match with a blistering strike from outside the penalty area in the sixth minute.

Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki missed a chance to double the Samurai Blue’s lead moments later when his close-range effort went wide.

Uzbekistan pushed back as time went on, with Rashidov making his presence felt in the final third and creating several opportunities. But an equaliser was nowhere to be found as Japan maintained their lead at the half.

10 minutes into the second half it was Okazaki with his 43rd international goal: a header nearly identical to the one he scored against Tunisia on Friday, this time with Kosuke Ota serving a fine cross rather than Honda.

Japan’s third goal of the match came with 11 minutes remaining as Uzbekistan pressed high in search of a goal. As Gaku Shibasaki’s 45-meter shot sailed over goalkeeper Akbar Turaev and toward the goal, Okazaki raced toward the ball and gallantly shepherded it into the net rather than tap it in himself.

The hosts showed some overconfidence in front of the 46,007-strong crowd, allowing Islom Tuhtahujaev to score from a set play just minutes later.

Substitute Takashi Usami responded quickly with a strike of his own, becoming the second Samurai Blue player on the night to score a debut national team goal.

Last but not least was Kengo Kawamata with his own debut senior goal as the Uzbek defence demonstrated little of the resilience they showed two months ago in Australia.

Both teams are expected to be seeded in Pot 1 next month as the draw is made for the second round of 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup joint qualifying.

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