Japan pip Oman on penalty to qualify for last 16

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Japan's Hiroki Sakai (C) competes during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 group F match between Oman and Japan in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Jan. 13, 2019. Japan won 1-0. (Xinhua/Wu Huiwo) (Xinhua/Wu Huiwo)

Japan qualified for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 knockout phase on Sunday as Genki Haraguchi's first-half penalty helped the Samurai Blue seal a narrow 1-0 win over Oman.

Japan's hard-fought victory saw Hajime Moriyasu's charges record their second win of the campaign and guarantee the four-time champions of Asia a place in the Round of 16 alongside Uzbekistan who beat Turkmenistan to go top of Group F.

The result also meant Japan – excluding penalty shoot-outs – extended their record of only losing once in their last 30 games at the AFC Asian Cup Finals since being beaten by Saudi Arabia in the 2007 semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Oman must now beat Turkmenistan in their final group stage fixture to retain any hope of qualifying for the next round as one of the best third-place finishers.

Having struggled to overcome Turkmenistan on Matchday One, Japan were quickly into their stride at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, Genki Haraguchi diverting Ritsu Doan's cross onto the bar from six yards inside the first two minutes.

Moments later, and with Japan in the ascendancy, Oman goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi was forced into a fine sprawling save when Takumi Minamino seemed destined to score, before Minamino then dragged a shot wide of the far post when put through by a raking Takumi Minamino pass.

Oman duly responded by spurning a golden chance of their own on 20 minutes, Salaah Al Yahyaei finding Muhsen Al Ghassani who rounded Shuichi Gonda but was unable to finish from a tight angle. 

However, in what was proving to be an entertaining affair, Japan eventually broke the deadlock in the 27th minute, Haraguchi picking himself up after being upended in the area by Raed Saleh to ram home the resulting spot-kick beyond Al Rusheidi's despairing dive.

With half-time approaching, Al Yahyaei's fierce drive was diverted to safety by defender Yuto Nagatomo as Japan maintained their slender lead going into the break. 

By way of contrast to what had gone before, chances were distinctly few and far between in the second period, with Saad Al Mukhaini's effort on 70 minutes – which was comfortably gathered by Gonda – the first genuine attempt on goal after the interval.

An acrobatic Saleh attempt from a pinpoint Al Mukhaini cross 10 minutes later and Al Rusheidi's last gasp save from substitute Junya Ito proved to be the final goalmouth action on a day when Japan were made to fight all the way by their resilient West Asian opponents.

Japan are set to complete their group stage fixtures when they face Uzbekistan on Thursday in Al Ain, with Oman playing Turkmenistan on the same day.

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