Kiyotake, Haraguchi goals push Japan past Saudi Arabia

Kiyotake, Haraguchi goals push Japan past Saudi Arabia

Japan defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Tuesday night in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier.

The hosts’ starting lineup featured three J.League representatives in Urawa Reds goalkeeper Shusa-ku Nishikawa, FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige and Cerezo Osaka midfielder Hotaru Yama-guchi.

The Samurai Blue pressured from the opening whistle at Saitama Stadium 2002 but did not take the lead until just before half-time when Hiroshi Kiyotake converted a penalty called for a handball in the Saudi penalty area moments earlier.

Japan maintained their 1-0 lead until the 80th minute, when Genki Haraguchi made it 2-0 from close range. 

While Saudi Arabia captain Omar Hawsawi managed to pull a goal back just 10 minutes later, a red card to captain Osama Hawsawi left the visitors unable to equalise in stoppage time and Vahid Halilhodzic’s men rightfully celebrated a 2-1 win.

Japan finished the year with a 3-1-1 record in Group B, good enough for second place on the strength of 10 points heading into what will be a crucial second half of the final qualifying round in 2017.