The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First win for Zico’s Japan

Seoul: Substitute Yuichiro Nagai scored a freak goal in injury time as Japan stunned 2002 World Cup co-hosts South Korea 1-0 in a fiercely contested friendly on Wednesday.

An attempted clearance from South Korea defender Cho Byoung-kuk ricocheted off the left foot of Nagai and looped over goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae to give Japan coach Zico his first victory in four attempts.

Plastic bottles rained on to the pitch at Seoul World Cup Stadium as a sell-out crowd of 65,000 registered their disgust at the goal at the end of a match dominated for long periods by South Korea.

The World Cup semi-finalists, who had won 35 of their previous 61 matches against Japan, enjoyed little luck in their second match under former Portugal coach Humberto Coelho.

Midfielder Lee Chun-soo came closest to breaking the stalemate in the 24th minute, creating space for himself with a superb turn and spin, only to fire his volley against the post with Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki stranded.

Six minutes later, Japan-based striker Ahn Jung-hwan, who scored the last time the teams met in a 1-1 draw in Tokyo nearly three years ago, rifled a free-kick just wide from 30 metres as South Korea kept up the pressure on Narazaki.

The home side continued to press after the re-start and forward Lee Dong-gook volleyed inches past the post in the 54th minute after cleverly being picked out by the busy Ahn.

Both teams were without key European-based players and consequently lacked cohesion and a killer touch in front of goal.

Japan captain Masashi Nakayama was guilty of a glaring miss in the 63rd minute, blasting over the bar from close range with no defender in sight.

Ahn had a legitimate penalty claim waved away after falling under the challenge of Shimizu S-Pulse team mate Ryuzo Morioka in the 88th minute.

But just as South Korea, who were held by Colombia in Pusan on March 29, looked set to settle for a second straight goalless draw, Nagai struck in the second minute of stoppage time to mark his international debut in emphatic style.

The South Korea players slumped to the turf as, seconds later, Japan celebrated only their 12th victory over their Asian rivals.

“The fact that the players stood up and refused to be beaten was more satisfying than the result,” said Brazilian Zico. “South Korea kept coming at us but we stuck to the task and came away with the win in a very tough atmosphere.”

Coelho, meanwhile, complained that poor finishing had cost South Korea victory.

“We struggled with our finishing again and obviously that part of our game needs to improve. Japan were very organised but we really should have found the net,” he said.

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