DOHA - Deep into extra-time in a tight
Asian Cup final and left all alone by Australia's defence, Japan
substitute Tadanari Lee had only one thought as a cross floated
"When the ball came to me I thought I needed to smash it,"
striker Lee told reporters after his superb effort gave Japan a
1-0 win in the final at the Khalifa Stadium and the Blue Samurai
a record fourth Asian Cup title.
The left-foot volley near the penalty spot was superbly
executed and sailed in to the corner of the net in the 109th
minute of a game the Japanese could feel fortunate to win having
offered Australia a host of goal-scoring opportunities.
The technical brilliance of the goal was of no surprise as
Japan's youthful squad continually proved their ability on the
ball throughout an unbeaten run in Doha. The identity of the
scorer, though, may have raised a few eyebrows.
Lee, 25, was making just his second appearance for the Blue
Samurai, after coming off the bench to make his debut in their
opening Group B stoppage-time draw with Jordan.
He trotted on to the field in the 98th minute on Saturday to
replace the tired-looking Ryoichi Maeda.
"The substitute players like Lee are always waiting for
their chance and he got his big chance tonight," defender Maya
The Tokyo-born striker, who has South Korean heritage and
trained with their youth teams before pledging his future to
Japan, was pleased with his efforts.
"I am proud of this game. I'm not Korean, I'm not Japanese,
I'm a footballer," the Sanfrecce Hiroshima player said.
As brilliant a finish as it was by Lee the Australian
defence, which had conceded only one goal en route to the final,
will be left wondering how the striker was afforded plenty of
space in their penalty area.
Australia, who wasted a number of chances to win the game in
normal time, contained Japan well throughout and the opposition
struggled without the cutting edge of their injured attacker
But in the second period of extra time Yuto Nagatomo skipped
past Luke Wilkshire on the wing and his cross was misjudged by
Australian left back David Carney before landing on Lee's foot.
"One lapse of concentration, perhaps one moment of fatigue
in extra time, has gifted them a goal," said dejected Australia
captain Lucas Neill.
"At this level if you don't take your chances and you give
your opponents one and they take it, that will be the
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