It was a heartbreaking finish for Australia after a late own goal rubbed out a stunning free kick from Ajdin Hrustic that had just levelled the match.
The own goal to Aziz Behich in the 85th minute proved the difference as the defender’s attempt to clear a deflected shot took a turn for the worst.
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There was little Behich could do after a big save from Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan deflected onto the back post before making contact with the defender.
“With how it played out, it hurts,” Ryan said after the game.
“I feel hard done by with the bad luck and how that second goal went in.
“It hurts to concede late.”
Tonight’s clash looked destined to head for a draw when Hrustic’s 69th-minute free kick beat Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda before hitting the crossbar and bouncing in.
But for most of the night, the Socceroos were forced to play from behind.
Japan, who were in desperate need of a win, couldn’t have asked for a better start after Ao Tanaka found the net in the opening 10 minutes.
Tanaka’s goal came on the back of a wonderful cross from Liverpool star Takumi Minamino, which Behich attempted to clear but was unable to, missing the ball which rolled to Tanaka who made the most of the opportunity.
“I thought it was a great spectacle to watch … it was an exciting game and at the end of the day, we were unlucky and conceded a deflected goal,” said Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
“Both teams had a go at each other,” Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said.
“We were unlucky that we hit the post but … at the end of the day, it wasn’t meant to be but we are on nine points after four games.”
With six games to go, Australia is now with three wins and one loss in Group B.
They face Saudi Arabia next.
Australia must finish either first or second in Group B to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
A third-place finish would send the Socceroos to a dreaded play-off with the nation who finishes third from Group A.
Meanwhile, Japan’s hopes of making it a smooth qualification for their sport in the World Cup improved.
Having won only one match from their first three games, the Samurai Blue and coach Hajime Moriyasu were under pressure to perform.
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