Mike Havenaar scored the only goal to give Asian Cup holders Japan a 1-0 win over the United Arab Emirates on Thursday in a tune-up game for the World Cup qualifier next week.
Yuichi Komano sent a pinpoint cross from the left into the area, where the UAE’s goalkeeper Ali Khaseif Humaid leapt to save without success, allowing the Dutch Vitesse Arnhem striker to head home in the 69th minute.
“I hadn’t scored for a while recently, so I feel relieved that I did today. But our next game is more important, I want to get a solid result there,” said Havenaar, 25.
Japan had nine attempts on goal to the UAE’s five in the first half, but they lacked a fluent inter-play with CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda hitting five.
Honda’s free kick from just outside the penalty area hit a defender in the 37th minute and then he put another over the bar.
Manchester United star Shinji Kagawa left the pitch to be replaced by Stuttgart striker Shinji Okazaki at half time.
At the beginning of the second half, Japan gained a free kick chance just outside the left area, but nobody was able to reply to Yasuhito Endo’s cross in front of the UAE’s goal mouth.
Honda was replaced by Kengo Nakamura in the 63rd minute after hitting one more shot.
Japan’s coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he used the game to check out his team ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Iraq next week.
“I also wanted to see how well my players work and how well my team work. We had both negative and positive elements today,” the Italian said.
Japan will face Iraq next Tuesday at the Saitama stadium, leading Group B on seven points from two wins and a draw in the final qualifying round. Australia, Iraq and Oman each have two points, ahead of Jordan on one.
The UAE will miss the world cup after crashing out of the third round.