October 18, 2021

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Japan end the Socceroos historic winning run

Australia’s long winless run in Japan continues after a late goal condemned the Socceroos to a dramatic 2-1 defeat, keeping Japan’s hopes of automatic World Cup qualification alive.

In a match in which Japan were under enormous pressure to win, the hosts made the early breakthrough thanks to Ao Tanaka’s eighth-minute strike during a first half in which Japan largely dominated a sluggish Socceroos side plagued by inaccurate passing and poor ball retention. 

Australia though, fought back early in the second half and that pressure culminated with a stunning free kick from Ajdin Hrustic that pulled the Socceroos level with 20 minutes to play.

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However, a late own goal from Aziz Behich with five minutes to go ended the Socceroos 11-match winning run and offered the hosts an automatic World Cup qualification lifeline.

The Socceroos have still never won in Japan, and extended its winless run of matches against the Samurai Blue to eight.

Socceroos goalscorer Hrustic said he was “devastated”, adding that his team dropped three points, but in truth, one could argue that Japan deserved all three points from the contest, based on the weight of chances they created. 

The Socceroos struggled badly in a scrappy first half, repeatedly turning the ball over against a Japan side backed enthusiastically by 15,000 supporters in Saitama Stadium.

Ao Tanaka runs, pointing at an off-camera teammateAo Tanaka runs, pointing at an off-camera teammate
Ao Tanaka opened the scoring for Japan.(Getty Images: Etsuo Hara)

Those supporters were overjoyed when Tanaka found himself in acres of space inside the penalty area after a deflection wrong-footed Behich, leaving the Fortuna Düsseldorf star plenty of time to pick his spot to score his maiden international goal.

The Socceroos were far from fluid, but still managed to string a nice sequences of passes together though Martin Boyle, Tom Rogic and Adam Taggart, before Taggart’s shot was parried onto the post  by Shūichi Gonda shortly before half-time, with Aaron Mooy’s follow-up effort blocked by swarming Japanese defence.

However, moments later the Japanese forced Mat Ryan into a superb save after Takumi Minamino found space of his own on the edge of the area.

The Socceroos were better in the second half and were eventually handed a golden opportunity to level when Hrustic was brought down by Hidemasa Morita right on the edge of the penalty area.

The referee first awarded a penalty, only for VAR to judge that first contact happened outside the area, but that did not matter to Hrustic, who sent a stunning shot in off the crossbar to restore parity.

Ajdin Hrustic fires a free kick over the wallAjdin Hrustic fires a free kick over the wall
Ajdin Hrustic’s free kick looked to have given Australia a point, at least.(Getty Images: Etsuo Hara)

Japan, who had won just once through the first three games of this third stage of Asian Qualifying, could have faltered under the pressure, but rallied to first forced Ryan into a brilliant double save, then score the winner with five minutes left.

Asano’s shot deflected was parried upwards by Ryan and hit the post, with the unfortunate Behich turning the ball into his own net, ending the Socceroos record winning run.

“I feel a little bit hard done by with the amount of bad luck for that second goal,” Ryan said after the match.

Australia next face Saudi Arabia on November 11, a match Football Australia hopes to play in Sydney, and one which Graham Arnold asked for the government to make happen with fans in attendance.

“I thought it was a great spectacle to watch,” Arnold said.

“At the end of the day, we were a bit unlucky; we hit the post and conceded through a deflected effort.

“We played some really great football intelligent football at the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Look back on how all the action unfolded in our live blog.

Key events

Live updates

1h ago1 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:35pm

By Simon Smale

How the table looks

Channel 10
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1h ago1 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:33pm

By Simon Smale

Mat Ryan: ‘It hurts’

Channel 10

Socceroos captain-keeper Mat Ryan, who pulled off a number of brilliant saves on the night, is speaking to Channel 10 as well. 

“Obviously it hurts, it always hurts when you lose,” he says.

“I feel a little bit hard done by with the amount of bad luck for that second goal to go in.”

Ryan said he was heartened by the second half performance after a tough first half.

“At the start of the second half we started really well,” he says.

“It hurts to concede late.”

He adds that if the Socceroos can play Saudi Arabia in November at home in front of a crowd, it would make a huge difference.

“If we can get the home advantage it’s going to make a real difference,” he says.

“We’ll use them to give us a real boost.”

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1h ago1 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:30pm

By Simon Smale

Ajdin Hrustic: ‘devastated’

Channel 10

The Socceroos’ goal scorer Ajdin Hrustic says the team is “devastated” about the result.

‘We did drop three points. I don’t think we deserved it.

“If we had come off with a 1-1 draw, you’d accept it, but to concede so late … you have to accept it and move on.

“We need to continue with our heads nice and high

I’m 100 per cent sure we’re going to finish on top if we continue to play the way we’re playing.”

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1h ago1 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:27pm

By Simon Smale

Graham Arnold appeals for government support to play games at home

Channel 10

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is speaking after the match to Channel 10.

“I thought it was a great spectacle to watch,” he says. “Both teams had a go at each other.”

“At the end of the day, we were a bit unlucky; we hit the post and conceded through a deflected effort…

“We played some really great football intelligent football at the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.

“We move forward from here.”

Arnold then turned his attention to the crowd at Saitama Stadium, saying the 15,000 people gave the hosts a real advantage.

“These crowds gives the home team a real energy,” he says.

“It’s important that the government gets our home fans there [when we return home in November].

“I’d love the government to help us with that.”

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:11pm

Audience comment by Mark

Great blogging. Thank you. <br><br>Such a disappointing end to the game. After that brilliant free kick which gave Australia the goal ; to not be able to hold on and steady the game was disappointing. Arnold will need to review his defensive midfield.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:06pm

By Simon Smale

Key Event

Full time: Japan 2-1 Socceroos

A tough ending for the Socceroos after doing so well to battle back onto level terms in that second half.

Japan needed that win so much, and just felt more desperate throughout, always striving to get to those second balls and just having that little bit more quality in the end.

The Socceroos really battled, but the better chances did fall to the home side and, in truth, they probably deserved the three points.

Australia’s spectacular 11-match winning run has come to an end and, in the process, has handed Japan a World Cup qualification lifeline.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:06pm

By Simon Smale

90+4′ – Chance Australia

Jeggo sends a deep cross into the penalty area but the keeper bravely claims in front of Harry Souttar.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:05pm

By Simon Smale

90+3′ – Yellow card (Souttar)

Big Harry Souttar has gone forward in a last-ditch attempt to grab an equaliser, but he throws his elbows about and gives away a free kick, and a booking.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:02pm

By Simon Smale

90+1′ – There will be four added minutes

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 12:01pm

By Simon Smale

89′ – Socceroos subs

One last roll of the dice for the Socceroos.

Karačić and Behich off, Grant and Ikonomidis on.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:58am

By Simon Smale

Key Event

85′ – GOAL JAPAN!

Takuma Asano loops a cross/shot over the top and Mat Ryan can only brush his palm on it as it goes over his head, hits the post, and goes in off Aziz Behich under pressure from Kyogo Furuhashi.

It’s desperately unlucky for the Socceroos, who have been better in this second half, but there was little Behich could so.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:57am

By Simon Smale

84′ – Subs Japan

A double change for the hosts, Morita and Nagamoto off, Shibasaki and Nakayama on.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:53am

By Simon Smale

81′ – Sub Socceroos

Tom Rogic off, Jimmy Jeggo on.

Good shift for Rogic. Jeggo slightly more defensively minded player, but I don’t think Graham Arnold is shutting up shop here.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:52am

By Simon Smale

80′ – DOUBLE CHANCE JAPAN!

WHERE ARE THE MIDFIELDS! 

Japan goes straight up the other end and Takuma Asano, on for Takumi Minamino, forces another really good save from Mat Ryan after Kyogo Furuhashi’s shot was blocked.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:50am

By Simon Smale

79′ – Chance Socceroos

Rogic just can’t find Mabil with a pass, then the Socceroos keep the pressure on, only for Japan to clear their lines.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:49am

By Simon Smale

76′ – CHANCES JAPAN!

Oh my! Two, brilliant saves from Mat Ryan as the Socceroos defence completely falls asleep, giving the ball away to a blue wave of Japanese strikers, who flooded forward and fired shots aplenty at the Socceroos skipper.

Ito should have scored first, but the chances continued to come for Japan.

Two really good saves and the Socceroos have got away with one there.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:47am

By Simon Smale

75′ – Chance Socceroos/Chance Japan

The game is opening up now, a thumped in cross is controlled by Mabil but the Japanese players hack the ball away up field, only for Japan to launch a counter-attack down field that the defence clears.

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:43am

By Simon Smale

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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:42am

By Simon Smale

Contrasting emotions from the coaches

GET IN! (Channel 10)
Oh no (Channel 10)
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2h ago2 hours agoTue 12 Oct 2021 at 11:41am

By Simon Smale

69′ – GOAL SOCCEROOS!

Ajdin Hrustic! What a strike! 

In off the crossbar and that’s his best set piece of the day, and what a time to do it!

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