Europe-based stars Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida were both among the goals as Japan wreaked revenge on Singapore and went top of their World Cup qualifying group with an emphatic 3-0 away win on Thursday.
The Blue Samurai dominated the match at Singapore’s National Stadium with strikes by Mu Kanazaki and AC Milan’s Honda in a six-minute spell putting them two goals up at the interval.
Singapore struggled with the visitors’ pace and movement but they prevented further damage until two minutes from time when Southampton’s Yoshida added the third.
It follows Singapore’s surprise 0-0 draw at Saitama in June, which was a setback to Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic in his first competitive game in charge and left him keen to make amends.
“In the first half, we played with ambition and aggressiveness but unfortunately we couldna t score more goals. In the second half, the rhythm decreased but still we continued to create chances,” Halilhodzic said.
“I want to say bravo to the players although I think we could still have played better and scored more goals.”
The Bosnian added: “Their goalkeeper had a big game again today and I congratulated him personally after the game because I dona t know how many chances he saved in these two games.”
After setting the record straight, Japan move top of Asian Group E on 13 points with three matches remaining and in pole position to go on to the next stage.
Syria are second on 12 points and Singapore are third with 10. Eight group winners and the four best-placed runners-up will go through to the third round of qualifying.
Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud made 18 saves in the goalless draw at Saitama and he continued to frustrate Japan in the opening minutes on his home ground as the visitors poured on intense pressure.
But he couldn’t prevent the opener on 20 minutes when Hondaa s cross was knocked down by Yoshinori Muto for Kashima Antlers midfielder Kanazaki, who chested it down before lashing a left-footed volley past Izwan.
The Singapore goalkeeper was also helpless in the 26th minute when Japan broke into the Singapore box and Hondaa s effort took a deflection off defender Nazrul Nazawi and looped over Izwan.
Japan continued to hold the upper hand after the interval with Izwan making crucial stops to keep out Kanazaki and Muto, while Safuwan Baharudin and Hafiz Sujad went close at the other end with headers.
Kanazaki had an effort disallowed for offside with 10 minutes remaining and Izwan made another fine save to deny Honda before Yoshida finally turned the ball into the net in the 88th minute to seal a convincing win.