Japan’s Yosuke Ideguchi (C) celebrates after scoring a goal. (Reuters Photo)
TOKYO, December 9 (Reuters): Yosuke Ideguchi scored deep into injury time as World Cup-bound Japan struggled to a 1-0 win over North Korea at the East Asian Championships on Saturday, after South Korea had been held to a 2-2 draw by China.
Japan, fielding a team made up exclusively of domestic-based players, had to wait until the 93rd minute to find a way past a resolute North Korea while Yu Dabao’s late equaliser earned China a point against the South Koreans.
Ideguchi’s deflected shot from outside the area was a rare opportunity for the Japanese, with North Korea looking the more likely to score in front of a crowd of just over 20,000 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium.
Kim Yu-sung was denied by a fine 69th-minute save from Kosuke Nakamura while Pak Myong-song missed a golden opportunity soon after to put his team in front before Japan stole all three points.
“It was a good victory but we were lucky,” said Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic. “Our opponent was well organised and defended well.
“There were many players who were playing their first game for Japan and we were not able to call up many players when we were making this team.
“The other side had a stronger squad so there are several positive factors for us. We never gave up, we never got frustrated. We were patient.”
China, meanwhile, had a goal from veteran winger Yu to thank for a share of the points with South Korea in the tournament’s opening game as the teams played out a 2-2 draw.
Shanghai SIPG youngster Wei Shihao marked his debut for the national team by giving China the lead after just nine minutes, only for goals in the following 10 minutes from Kim Shin-wook and Lee Jae-sung to put Shin Tae-yong’s side ahead.
China goalkeeper Yan Junling then made a series of fine saves to deny the Koreans before Yu powered home his header via the inside of the post to seal a share of the points for Marcello Lippi’s team.
“I wish we had had more ball possession and were able to make more of our opportunities,” said Shin.
“I think we were able to control the second half but we weren’t able to take our opportunities in the first half. We lost the goal in the second half, they drew level and the game ended in a draw and I’m disappointed with that.”