Japan beat Bahrain 1-0 in qualifier

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Japan sealed a narrow 1-0 win over Bahrain in an Asian World Cup Group B qualifier at Saitama in Japan on Wednesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:51 IST
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Japan sealed a narrow 1-0 win over Bahrain in an Asian World Cup Group B qualifier at Saitama on Wednesday. Bahrain's surprise win over North Korea last week and Japan's defeat to Iran put the hosts under pressure before the kick-off. Coach Zico, the former Brazilian star, fully understood that three points were needed to put his team back on track for Germany 2006. Better half Japan failed to create any chances in the first half, but the second period was a different story. Takayuki Suzuki's shot from outside the box rebounded into the path of Naohiro Takahara, but he failed to connect from close range and Bahrain goalkeeper Ali Hasan parried the ball to safety after 57 minutes. In the next minute, Bahrain's Husain Ali Ahmed found space on the right side of the penalty area, but the striker blasted his shot wide from inside the penalty area. Japan spurned another opportunity in the 66th minute as Takahara, the Hamburg SV striker, found space for himself on the right side of the box, but shot narrowly wide after turning and losing his marker. Crucial goal The home side finally scored the all-important goal in the 72nd minute and it was as comical as it was crucial. A free-kick was floated into the area and Bahrain midfielder Mohamed Ahmed Salmeen, under pressure from Yuji Nakazawa, attempted to hack the ball away for a corner, but found the corner of his own net. Bahrain's last chance to equalise arrived in the 89th minute, but Dauij Naser Ali could only shoot straight at Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki. The win lifts Japan into second place in Group B on six points, one point behind leaders Iran, while Bahrain are third with four points and North Korea complete the standings in last place with no points. (AP)

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