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Women’s Asian Cup: Holders Japan start campaign with 5-0 win over Myanmar

Pune : Two-time defending champions Japan opened their defence in style with a 5-0 win against minnows Myanmar in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup football championships at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi here on Friday.Yui Hasegawa struck a brace of goals while Riko Ueki, Hikaru Naomoto and Yui Narumiya scored a goal apiece as Futoshi Ikeda’s side cruised to victory with a dominant display.Riko Ueki gave the Japanese the lead midway through the first half before goals by Yui Hasegawa and Hikaru Naomoto early in the second half gave the champions a comfortable cushion. Substitute Yui Narumiya hit the fourth and Hasegawa completed the rout in injury time.Japan enjoyed 71.5 percent possession as compared to 28.5 percent by Myanmar. Futoshi’s side took 38 shots of which 11 were on target. Myanmar could not take a single short at the Japanese goal.

The Japanese, despite playing without star forward Mana Iwabuchi, who plays for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League in England, showed the difference in class from the opening whistle, with Ueki threatening with an early header while Tanaka’s attempt moments later clipped the woodwork.Japan’s fluency on the ball had Myanmar struggling to keep up and by the 22nd minute, Bo Bo Aung’s side had fallen behind.Goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita punted the ball down the right flank towards Yui Hasegawa and her cross was headed in by Ueki as she arrived unmarked and at pace on the edge of the six-yard box.Tanaka was denied Japan’s second two minutes later when May Zin Nwe blocked her effort and later Hasegawa rattled the crossbar as the champions dominated without opening up a significant gap over the South East Asians.Hasegawa, however, doubled the lead two minutes after the restart as Japan’s quality began to show.

Hinata Miyazawa’s stab forward was deftly steered into Hasegawa’s path by Ueki and the West Ham United midfielder coolly slotted home.The 24-year-old almost added a third soon after, only for Nwe to acrobatically tip her rising drive onto the crossbar, but there was little the goalkeeper could do in the 53rd minute when substitute Naomoto curled her free-kick over the wall to score Japan’s third.Fuka Nagano also hit the bar from distance and Nwe continued to frustrate the Japanese attack until Narumiya claimed the fourth 19 minutes from time, scoring from the edge of the area only seconds after stepping off the bench.Hasegawa then capped a stellar performance when she instinctively clipped the ball over Nwe a minute into injury time as she came off the line.It was a good win for a team trying to recover from a disappointing performance in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. It puts Japan in a strong position in Group C ahead of their next game, against Vietnam on Monday, while Myanmar next face the Korea Republic.



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