Monday 08 August 2016, 04:14

Japan stay alive with Colombia fightback

Japan came from two goals behind in the second half to draw with Colombia 2-2 thanks to goals from forwards Takuma Asano and Shoya Nakajima at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus in Group B of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016.

Colombia and Japan knew going into the match that taking all three points could prove crucial if they wanted to keep their dreams of winning gold alive, and it was not hard to see by the pace given the tenacity on show from both sides. The fans at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus witnessed a true tussle on the night.

Japan right back Sei Muroya and midfielder Shinya Yajima combined well down the right flank throughout the first half, and in the 11th minute, Yajima almost gave the Samurai Blue the lead. He had a golden opportunity ten yards from goal, but Cristian Bonilla got down quickly and saved to his left.

In the 18th minute Colombia forward Miguel Borja turned his defender smartly before unleashing a low, driven shot just outside the penalty area, but goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura, who did not feature in Japan's first match against Nigeria, was up to the challenge.

Both sides showed desire to go forward and this was exemplified in the 29th minute when Colombia launched a counter attack, with Borja playing Wilmar Barrios through, but Tsukasa Shiotani recovered brilliantly, preventing his shot with a well-timed sliding challenge. The ball then was played forward immediately to Takuma Asano, who then flicked the ball over Felipe Aguilar's head to burst towards goal, but Aguilar also showed great recovery speed and prevented Asano from shooting on Bonilla's goal.

Aguilar showed his ability of timing and anticipation once again in the 36th minute when he flew into another challenge to prevent Hiroki Fujiharu from having a one-on-one opportunity on Los Cafeteros' goal. Aguilar had to be substituted at half-time due to injury.

The second half started as lively as the first when Asano intercepted an errant pass in the midfield from Kevin Balanta and took a shot outside the penalty area that Bonilla tipped onto the crossbar.

Just as it seemed Japan were the most likely to go in front, in the 59th minute Colombia captain Teofilo Gutierrez turned his defender, combined with substitute Arley Rodriguez on top of the area before side-footing a low shot which deflected into the Japan goal, leaving goalkeeper Nakamura helpless. It was Gutierrez's second at Rio 2016.

Japan's misery was then compounded six minutes later when Hiroki Fujiharu misplayed a pass in front of his open goal, leading to an own goal and giving his team a mountain to climb.

However, just two minutes after Fujiharu's horrible moment, Asano kept the Samurai Blue's hopes alive. After intricate build-up play just outside the penalty area by substitutes Ryota Ohshima and Takumi Minamino, Asano gathered Minamino's pass, took one quick touch before striking with his left foot past Bonilla.

Japan's belief was palpable and they were awarded with their pressure put forth when Nakajima curled in a shot from about 25 yards out, the ball hitting the crossbar before bouncing over Bonilla's goalline to make it 2-2.

The Asian side nearly fully completed the comeback when Asano found himself through on goal one last time, but Bonilla was able to make the crucial save and ensure the sides shared the spoils.

With Nigeria through to the quarter-finals, second place is all up for grabs in Group B heading in to the last matchday of the group stages on Wednesday.