A gritty China fought back from a goal-down twice before stunning two-time defending champions Japan 4-3 in the penalty shootout in the semi-finals to book a summit clash against Korea in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Thursday. Japan led twice in the match, first in the normal time and second in the extra time but China had answers each time to take the match to the penalty shootout at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex.
As the epic match ended 2-2 after extra time, China prevailed 4-3 in the dramatic penalty shoot-out to remain on course for a record extending ninth title in the continental showpiece.
The Steel Roses had won seven consecutive titles between 1986 and 1989 before adding another one in 2006.
Japan, who had triumphed in 2014 and 2018, dominated the match but wasted chances to fail in their bid for a hat-trick of titles.
Earlier in the first semifinals at the same venue, Korea defeated Phlippines 2-0 to make it to their maiden semifinals.
The summit clash will be played at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.
Japan made their intentions clear in the first minute with Hinata Miyazawa testing China custodian Yu Zhu from distance, while Riko Ueki missed a golden opportunity to put the defending champions ahead three minutes later from inside the box.
Ueki was a constant threat and almost found the breakthrough after Ruka Norimatsu set her through on goal in the sixth minute but China goalkeeper Yu Zhu was quick to block the forward’s effort.
Japan increased the pressure with Saki Kumagai and Mana Iwabuchi both missing from inside the six-yard-box as China soaked up the pressure.
Japan should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Hinata Miyazawa sent a delightful through ball but Ueki’s effort from close range was saved by an advancing Yu Zhu.
China’s defence, however, was finally breached in the 26th minute when Hinata Miyazawa burst down the left flank and sent a perfect cross to Ueki, who scored with a glancing header past Yu Zhu.
Japan came close to extending their advantage on the stroke of half-time with Miyazawa sending her long-range effort just wide with just one goal separating the sides going into the break.
Japan’s missed opportunities cost them dearly as China drew level just a minute into the restart, with Xiao Yuyi muscling her way past a marker before sending a delightful ball to Wu Chengshu to finish.
Japan almost replied with a goal eight minutes later when Miyazawa set-up Iwabuchi nicely at the top of the box but the midfielder couldn’t find the target, sending her effort wide.
Japan should have taken the lead in the 75th minute but Ueki failed to find the back of the net from close range after Iwabuchi’s cut-back, with extra-time needed to decide the semi-final.
China survived a scare in the 97th minute when Ueki set up Hasegawa nicely at the top of the box but the midfielder’s effort was denied by the crossbar.
Japan’s persistence finally paid off in the 103rd minute after Ueki beat the China offside trap to finish off Hasegawa’s free-kick with a diving header.
Yu Zhu then had to save Hasegawa’s shot from inside the box and Ueki’s header moments later as Japan took a 2-1 lead going into the second half of extra-time.
China failed to make much headway in the second period but just when Japan thought they had secured their place in the final, up stepped China skipper Wang Shanshan to score the equaliser as she reacted fastest to Zhang Xin’s cross in the 119th minute to force the game into penalties.
Yu Zhu then saved the first and fifth penalties and Wang Shanshan, fittingly, scored the winner from the spot as China advanced to their first final since 2008.
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