A dramatic late equalizer by Sebastian Quintana earned ten-man Qatar a valuable point at Ha Noi’s My Dinh Stadium as they settled for a 1 – 1 draw against defending champions Japan in their AFC Asian Cup opener on Monday.
|Qatar's Sebastian Quintana (center) celebrates with teammates after scoring the equalizer|
Japan looked comfortable leading 1 – 0, thanks to Naohiro Takahara's close-range finish in the 61st minute, but Quintana's deflected free kick flew into the top corner in the 88th minute denying Japan’s three-point win.
The Cup holders dominated the first half but could not create any clear-cut opportunities except for midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, whose left-footed strike inside the penalty area deflected off a Qatar defender.
Japan’s striker Satoru came close in the 57th minute when his close-range shot flew high over the bar. Four minutes later Eintracht Frankfurt striker, Naohiro Takahara put Japan in front when he tucked Yasuyuki Konno's flicked cross into the net with a left-footed volley.
Japan then appeared to kill off the game with the frontline wasting many chances, allowing Qatar back into the game with Sebastian Quintana’s equalizer in the 88th minute.
The Uruguay-born forward, with the help of a deflection, blasted a free kick past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi from 25 meters after he was fowled at the edge of the box.
A shocked Japan almost regained the lead in stoppage time when Nakamura delicately squeezed a pass by Qatari defense to substitute Naotake Hanyu, whose attempt went wide of the post.
Qatar’s joy was dampened when Hussein Yasser was sent off for lunging at substitute Hideo Hashimoto. Their coach Dzemaludin Musovic was also penalized for protesting against the decision and was ordered down the tunnel.
Yaser has been banned for Qatar's game against Viet Nam on Thursday while Musovic could face sanctions pending an AFC disciplinary meeting.
“I was near to the incident…I was in a better position than the referee; Yasser tried to make contact with the ball, and it was not his intention to foul,” said Qatar’s Coach Musovic, who was Japan’s assistant coach for the 1990 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals,
“We will now lose a player for the next game. The referee must realize it was in the final minutes and it was also an attacking player who had not made many fouls during the game.”
"We were careless," Japan coach Ivica Osim fumed about his side's performance, "This result could make it difficult for us. The players have got to learn to turn style into substance."
The result forces current champions Japan, who will take on the United Arab Emirates on Friday, to trail Viet Nam in Group B after the co-hosts' 2-0 win over the UAE at the weekend.