Japan narrowly escape defeat to Jordan

Japan's Maya Yoshida (third R) heads the ball to score against Jordan during their 2011 Asian Cup Group B soccer match at Qatar Sports Club stadium in Doha. (REUTERS)

A 91st minute goal by Maya Yoshida saved three-time champions Japan from a shock defeat at the hands of underdogs Jordan as the two sides drew 1-1 in their opening Asian Cup Group B match on Sunday.

Hasan Abdel Fattah opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time for Jordan before VVV Venlo defender Yoshida headed home the equaliser as the clock ticked into stoppage time.

Japan, who are looking for a record fourth continental title after losing to Saudi Arabia in the 2007 semi-finals, controlled the game early on but could not penetrate Jordan's determined defence.

In front of half-filled stands at the 12,500-seat Qatar Sports Club Stadium, they had the best of the chances with an angled shot from Borussia Dortmund rookie Shinji Kagawa punched away by Jordan keeper Amer Shafi in the 23rd minute.

Three minutes later, Yoshida found the net on the rebound off a Makoto Hasebe shot but it was ruled offside.

Jordan slowly geared themselves into the offensive and almost drew first blood on the half-hour when Fatth trapped the ball in front of the net but his shot went straight into Eiji Kawashima's hands.

Then on 38 minutes defender Basem Fathi's header from a corner swerved off the far post.

Kagawa, who has scored eight Bundesliga goals this season after moving to Germany when he failed to make the World Cup squad, squandered another chance two minutes later when he failed to beat Shafi one-on-one at the goalmouth.

CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda, who scored two goals in South Africa, was clipped down by Jordan captain Hatem Aqel in the 43rd minute but his 30-metre free kick went too wide.

It was Jordan who opening their scoring, with Fattah's strike coming in the 45th minute when he picked up a cross from the left by fellow midfielder Amer Deeb just outside the box, cleverly dodged a defender and shot.

The ball ricocheted off Yoshida's left foot and Kawashima could not respond in time.

Jordan almost doubled the score three minutes after the interval when striker Odai Al Saify's header on a Deeb cross went wide.

The Blue Samurai fought back but Honda missed two more free kicks before the hour mark as his left foot packed power but lacked precision.

In the 62nd minute, Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe latched onto a cross from Shinji Okazaki with a dive but his sharp right-foot shot could not find the back of the net.

Honda, desperate to pull one back for Japan, cut in from the left corner of the box and beat a Jordan defender in the 79th minute but his right-foot shot went straight into Shafi's arms.

Japan kept pressing and as the clocked ticked down and all seemed lost, they finally equalised when Yoshida headed in a lob from Hasebe to the clear relief of coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

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