AFC U-16 Championship: Japan, Tajikistan march on into semi-finals

Highlights – Hanoi FC vs Altyn Asyr FC

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Japan are through to the last four of the AFC U-16 Championship after beating Oman 2-1 in the quarter-finals on Sunday afternoon.

The Japanese got off to a perfect start at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium as they took the lead in the 14th minute when Oman defender Issa Al-Naabi could only help the ball into his own goal, after his goalkeeper Mitham Al-Ajmi had done well to deny Jun Nishikawa one-on-one.

However, the Omanis pulled level just seven minutes later as Tariq Al-Mashary ghosted in behind Kohshiro Sumi at the far post to send a header into the back of the net.

Still, it was the Samurai Blue would looked the likelier of the two teams to strike again and they grabbed what proved to be the winner with just nine minutes remaining; Shoji Toyama meeting Nishikawa’s slide-rule cross from the left and cleverly guiding his shot past Al-Ajmi.

Later on in the evening, Japan were joined in the semi-finals by Tajikistan as they beat DPR Korea 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at the Petaling Jaya Stadium.

Despite the North Koreans dominating proceedings, it was Tajikistan who drew first blood in the 14th minute when Rustam Soirov got in behind the opposition defence and calmly advanced on goal before dispatching an emphatic strike into the top corner.

Expectedly, DPR Korea managed to hit back nine minutes after the hour mark through a moment of brilliance from right-back Ri Hun, who was allowed to charge free down the right before trying his luck from all of 35 yards with a rocket that sailed past Mukhriddin Hasanov.

With neither side able to find the back of the net again in the remainder of the 90 minutes, the contest was then to be decided by the dreaded penalty shootout.

And it was Hasanov who emerged as the hero for the Tajiks, keeping out efforts from Kim Jin-guk and Chae Yu-song while Sharifbek Rahmatov, Ozodbek Pandiev, Jonibek Sharipov and Soirov all had no problems converting from 12 yards to win it for Tajikistan.

Along with a place in the semis of the AFC U-16 Champions, Japan and Tajikistan have also both sealed a place at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, to be held in Peru next October.

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