2018 World Cup Qualifying - AFC, Round Two
  • Mu Kanazaki (20')
  • Keisuke Honda (26')
  • Maya Yoshida (87')

Honda and Kanazaki strike early to give Japan WC revenge in Singapore

There was no repeat of the Saitama upset as Japan put Singapore to the sword with a comfortable 3-0 victory in an AFC World Cup Group E qualifier at the National Stadium on Thursday night.

After the surprise goalless draw back in June on home soil, Japan came out looking purposeful and intent on getting all three points. First half goals from Mu Kanazaki and Keisuke Honda set the Japanese on their way before Maya Yoshida added a third in the 87th minute.

The visitors clicked into gear as early as the seventh minute. Yoshinori Muto's delicate cross was met by Keisuke Honda, whose powerful shot saw Izwan Mahbud stick out a hand to keep the ball out.

A 15th minute free kick by Hiroshi Kiyotake found Masato Morishige whose header was saved by Izwan. Honda's header from the rebound seemed destined for the back of the net, but Fazrul Nawaz was on hand to save the day.

The visitors' dominance paid off on 20 minutes when Kanazaki opened the scoring. Morishige's ball to Honda saw the AC Milan forward put in a pinpoint cross that was flicked on by Muto. Kanazaki turned with the ball, before rifling an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

It was Honda who almost doubled the lead four minutes later. His free-kick stung the gloves of Izwan, who managed to gather it at the second attempt.

Japan made it 2-0 six minutes later when another flowing move saw Honda smash the ball past Izwan, after a wicked deflection off the boot of Nazrul Nazari.

Singapore's best chance of the half came in the 38th minute. Madhu Mohana's signature long throw was flicked on by Safuwan Baharudin. But goalkeeper Nishikawa Shusaku pushed the ball away just as Baihakki was rushing in.

Sahil Suhaimi came on for Fazrul after the break, but the Japanese refused to take their foot off the pedal as they went in search of more goals.

In the 48th minute, Muto swung in a cross that was met by Honda, but the AC Milan forward put his header narrowly wide.

There was, however, a bright moment in the Singapore attack on 66 minutes. Izzdin Shafiq's deep free-kick found a lurking Safuwan. However, his downward header sailed past the post as the Kallang crowd shook their heads in disbelief.

Japan went down the other end and almost made it three when Honda's superb cross with the outside of his foot gave Muto the chance to execute a spectacular scissor-kick that saw Izwan make his seventh save of the match.

Hafiz Sujad probably had the best opportunity with 18 minutes left when Faris Ramli's cross was met by his glancing header that went inches wide.

The Japanese fans got what they came for in the 74th minute when Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa came off the bench to take the place of Hiroshi Kiyotake.

Kanazaki thought he had scored his second goal and Japan's third on 80 minutes, only for the assistant referee to rule it out for offside.

The third goal did come with just three minutes left on the clock. Southampton centre-back Yoshida deflected Hasebe's shot past Izwan to make it 3-0 and send Japan to the top of Group E.

Singapore will take on Syria at home on Tuesday, while the Samurai Blue make their way to Phnom Penh to face on Cambodia.

Singapore: Izwan Mahbud (GK), Shakir Hamzah, Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Nazrul Nazari, Safuwan Baharudin (Zulfahmi Arifin 90+1'), Hariss Harun (C), Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Sujad, Faris Ramli (Christopher Van Huizen 80'), Fazrul Nawaz (Sahil Suhaimi 45')

Japan: Nishikawa Shusaku (GK), Yuto Nagatomo, Masato Morishige, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Makoto Hasebe (C), Kashiwagi Yosuke, Keisuke Honda (Genki Haraguchi 82'), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Shinji Kagawa 74'), Yoshinori Muto (Usami Takashi 69'), Mu Kanazaki