Japan scored a late equaliser to snatch a 2-2 draw at the AIS Athletics stadium against the LG Joeys last Sunday night. In the first of the two friendlies between the teams the result proved a true reflection of the game.
"I thought it was a good hitout", said Joeys coach Ange Postecoglou. "Both teams played well in patches."
Japan started well and dominated for the early going. With the Australians a little disjointed, the Japanese took advantage of poor marking at a corner to grab the lead with just under a quarter of an hour gone.
Playmaker for the Japan team, Kazumazu Takagi sent in a teasing corner kick from the right. It was met solidly by Hiroti Mogi who's glancing header was too strong for Jacob Rex to stop.
The Joeys slowly gained their feet and came back into the match. They were obviously more physical, but knew how to explode out of defence and threaten at the other end.
Five minutes from the break Matthew Engele saw his shot palmed by Kenta Tokushige onto the upright and away for a corner and that was the closest the Joeys came for the half.
Then two minutes into the second period a free-kick just outside the box was rifled low past the wall and into the far corner by Massimo Murdocca to level the scorelines.
Australia pushed hard for the go-ahead goal, and although many had their heart in their mouth when Takagi combined again with Mogi only for the latter to spurn his chance with a free header wide of the mark, it was the Joeys who would take the lead with two-thirds of the game played.
Some nice work out from the back saw the ball come to Matthew Hunter on the right. His long cross convinced Tokushige to stay planted on his line and Engele leapt higher than his marker to head home from 15m out.
With the large number of substitutes the Joeys lost their rhythm and Shingo Nejime, himself a very late substitute, started to get extra room on the right inside the box.
In the 83rd minute he saw his first goal attempt smothered well by Rex, two minutes later it was a combination of Rex and a defender that denied him, but in the 88th he found the net.
Following a corner from the other end Japan broke well and found themselves one-on-one with the defence. The ball went to Yuki Nakishima who fed Sho Kitano and then to Nejime to finish.
With six minutes of extra time both sides finished frantically, but neither could muster a serious attempt at goal and the game came to an end with the 2-2 scoreline.
Postecoglou said that he was not too unhappy with the game. "We started slow, gained momentum in the middle of the game and let them back in the last 15 whem we made all the subs."