Midfielder Shinobu Ohno scored the game-winner late in the first half as Nadeshiko Japan edged South Korea 2-1 on Sept. 3, the second win in two games at the Asian Olympic qualifiers for the Women’s World Cup champions.
Japan now tops the six-team group with six points. The top two teams in the group will play at the London Olympics next summer.
With the score tied 1-1, Japan captain Homare Sawa penetrated the Korean zone and sent the ball to forward Nahomi Kawasumi. Kawasumi lost her balance in front of the goal but managed to get the ball to Ohno, who poked it home to make it 2-1 at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center in China.
''It was a difficult game, but we got three points,'' Japan coach Norio Sasaki said.
Sasaki brought back his regular starters, including star midfielder Sawa, for the match against South Korea after resting many of them in Japan’s 3-0 opening win over Thailand two days ago. South Korea played host China to a scoreless draw in their opener.
Midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi, who was on bench for the previous match, headed home a corner kick from midfielder Aya Miyama in the 10th minute to open the scoring.
Twenty minutes later, South Korea got it back to 1-1 when attacker Ji So-yun curled in a right-foot equalizer. Ji plays for Japan's INAC Kobe Leonessa, also the club team of seven Nadeshiko Japan members.
The South Koreans dominated the game from the middle of the first half, but Japan netted the go-ahead goal by Ohno in first-half injury time.
After halftime, Japan withstood a series of South Korean attacks to seal the win and take three points.
Elsewhere Sept. 3, China and North Korea ended in a scoreless draw, while Australia thrashed Thailand 5-1 to earn its first victory of the Asian Olympic final qualifiers.
Japan next meets Australia at Shandong Sports Center on Sept. 5.
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