WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Singapore 0 Japan 3
They wanted revenge, and they got it. Slammed by home fans and media after a shock 0-0 draw against Singapore in Saitama five months ago, Japan ensured there was no repeat last night when they tamed the Lions 3-0 at the National Stadium in a World Cup qualifier.
An upbeat Singapore coach Bernd Stange had said at Wednesday's press conference that it would be "party time" - only for Japan to rain on the hosts' parade in front of a 33,868 crowd.
As Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said: "I know there was much criticism after the last game (against Singapore)... tonight, we had to score goals.
"In the first half, we played a bit of our game, with ambition and aggression.
"In the second half, the rhythm decreased but still we created chances."
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS (ASIA)
Australia 3 Kyrgyzstan 0
Tajikistan 5 Bangladesh 0
Maldives 0 Hong Kong 1
China 12 Bhutan 0
Iran 3 Turkmenistan 1
Singapore 0 Japan 3
Afghanistan 3 Cambodia 0
Thailand 4 Chinese Taipei 2
South Korea 4 Myanmar 0
Philippines 0 Yemen 1
Uzbekistan 3 North Korea 1
Stange admitted that it was the "correct result".
"We tried everything but we could not close the gap. It's never nice to lose 3-0 at home but today we've to respect the performance of the Japanese team.
"We wanted a draw, but you cannot blame anybody, because the players gave their best."
The German said the Lions' lack of top-level experience, compared to Japan who could also tap on their Europe-based stars, was exposed last night.
Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who dished out 18 saves in the June fixture, put up another inspired performance but could not totally keep the Japanese at bay.
Quick, technically sublime and moving in perfect harmony, the Samurai Blue, who rested Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa and Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki, were ahead in every department, as intricate passing patterns emerged all over the pitch.
Yet, somewhat ironically, it was footballing basics - an area where several Lions were found wanting - that saw the visitors open the scoring. A long ball aimed at Keisuke Honda was grossly misjudged by left-back Shakir Hamzah. Honda's cross found Yoshinori Muto, whose downward header was volleyed home with aplomb by Mu Kanazaki.
Three passes, one goal, and Japan heaved a sigh of relief as Kanazaki ran half the pitch to celebrate wildly with his team-mates on the bench.
Little wonder, for they had finally beaten Izwan after 110 minutes of football.
Honda, who plays for Italy's AC Milan, doubled the lead six minutes later, his deflected shot from around the penalty spot looping past a helpless Izwan.
Maya Yoshida rounded up the scoring three minutes from full-time. The Southampton defender guided the ball home - after a deflected shot from far found him unmarked in the box - to the delight of the Japanese fans who filled up about half the 55,000-capacity stadium.
While the Lions were mainly pegged back, their best chance to score fell to Hafiz Sujad, who rose to glance a Faris Ramli cross narrowly wide in the 72nd minute.
Japan now top Group E with 13 points while Singapore remain third on 10. The Lions take on Syria (12 points) on Tuesday at the National Stadium.