Japan 2 – 1 China
(Yu Kobayashi ’84, Gen Shoji ’88 – Yu Dabao ’94)
Wang Dalei – Fu Huan, Liu Yiming, Gao Zhunyi (He Guan ’46), Zheng Zheng, Li Xuepeng – Wei Shihao (Yang Liyu ’83), He Chao, Zhao Yuhao, Yu Dabao – Xiao Zhi (Zhang Wenzhao ’46)
It wasn’t until six minutes remained on the clock in the Ajinmoto Stadium in Tokyo that the hosts finally managed to find their way past the Chinese wall, but when they did, they struck twice in quick succession and China didn’t have time to answer.
For after a first half where little happened, China offered next to nothing going forward and easily saw off the Japanese attacks, it was evident that something had to change in the second half.
Marcello Lippi made two changes at halftime and China looked a little more dangerous from the moment the Singaporean referee blew his whistle for the start of the second half.
Substitute Zhang Wenzhao played through China’s captain Yu Dabao and the Beijing Guoan striker should have done better alone with Japan’s goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi, but hit the ball straight at the Gamba Osaka player.
But as both teams were pushing to find the opening goal the clock was ticking away without caring about the two teams on the pitch. Then with six minutes remaining, Japan finally found a way through.
After some nice combinations from Japan, Yu Kobayashi found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Wang Dalei, who replaced Yan Junling from the first game. Wang saved the initial attempt but the ball fell to Kobayashi again and from a difficult angle he managed to curl the ball into the net to give Japan the lead.
Then, just four minutes later, centre back Gen Shoji got the ball just inside China’s half. Shoji chested it down, looked up, and sent the ball flying. The ball sailed through the air and dipped down just above Wang’s outstretched glove and into the goal. The goalkeeper had been caught too far off his line and Shoji had said “thank you” and most likely scored the goal of the tournament in the process.
China would get a consolation goal well into added time when Zhang Wenzhao got them a penalty which Yu Dabao easily put away.
This loss means that China can no longer win the EAFF Championship but they can still take second if they defeat North Korea in the next match and South Korea lose to Japan.
Speaking of the two Korean nations, they played in a highly anticipated match earlier in the day and it was the South Koreans that came out on top after Ri Yong-Chol scored an unfortunate own goal. A cross hit the defender in the knee and rolled into the goal past the goalkeeper who could do nothing to stop it. A somewhat anticlimactic way to decided the match.