Football: Saudi Arabia pay price for profligacy as Japan reach quarter-finals for eighth consecutive Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Burayk reacts after the 2019 AFC Asian Cup match between Japan and Saudi Arabia in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on Jan 21, 2019.
Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Burayk reacts after the 2019 AFC Asian Cup match between Japan and Saudi Arabia in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on Jan 21, 2019. PHOTO: EPA - EFE

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Reuters) - A first-half goal from Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to send Japan into the Asian Cup quarter-finals for the eighth consecutive tournament after a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday (Jan 21).

The Saudis, looking to end a 23-year drought since their third continental title, paid the price for failing to convert their chances as four-time champions Samurai Blue progressed to face Vietnam on Thursday.

Japan went in front in the 20th minute when defender Tomiyasu rose above a Saudi defender in the centre of the box to head a corner into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Saudi Arabia dictated play in both halves, but were simply unable to finish in front of goal as the Japanese defenders put in a solid shift.

Midfielder Salem Aldawsari had a golden opportunity to put the Green Falcons level in the 62nd minute but sprayed the ball over the bar with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box.

Moments later, defender Ali Hadi Albulayhi guided the ball well over the bar with a free header after an inviting Aldawsari cross into the penalty area.

Japan, who claimed their last title in 2011, had won all three of their group-stage matches to finish top of their group, while Saudi Arabia finished second in theirs with wins over North Korea and Lebanon.