A large contingent of flag waving Palestinian fans blew into Newcastle for the country’s first ever Asian Cup fixture. Facing the continental champions Japan, the odds were stacked against them, though the weather conditions certainly hindered the favourites.
Japan got the scoring underway after the Palestinians laid deep, inviting trouble. Midfield general Yasuhito Endo used the time and space to drive the ball from outside the box, into the far left of goal.
For a brief period the Palestinians had themselves in the attacking third, but it was brief and unthreatening.
Making an impact however, was Japan’s fresh faced right back Gotoku Sakai. The Stuttgart defender linked well on a number of occasions with Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda.
When Japan’s second goal did finally arrive it was with the aid of some good fortune. Left back Nagatomo had charged into the box rounding defenders at the bye-line where he had no option but to cross. The Palestinians failed to fully clear. Dortmund attacker Kagawa bursted onto the ball from midfield, with forward Okazaki redirecting the missile into goal.
With a 2-nil deficit to act on Palestine showed some encouraging signs through midfield, Said and Abuhabib linking occasionally. But the wind was taken out of their sails when a penalty was awarded moments before half time. Honda slotting it away after Okazaki was clattered into.
The second half was barely underway when Southampton defender Maya Yoshida made it 4-0. The big man simply leaping higher than his opponents.
From that point the Japanese seemed to take the foot off the pedal. Half time substitute Kiyotake and 58th minute sub Muto were unable to maintain the momentum.
Despite the scoreline and windy conditions the Palestinian fans continued to sing and dance, and every time star striker Ashraf found himself with the ball near the box, the decibels were raised.
With 73 minutes past defender Mahajna picked up his second yellow card. At that point there was a feeling the flood gates may open but the Japanese didn’t take advantage. It was a second half performance that never kicked off.
Apart from a late goal mouth scramble Japan didn’t look like extending their four goal lead.
Nevertheless the champions of Asia have stamped their mark on the tournament, matching Australia’s four goal haul against Kuwait. Japan now head to Brisbane, to take on Iraq who defeated Jordan 1-0.