Saori Ariyoshi’s first international goal in 37 caps looked set to be the one that sent Japan to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Women’s World Cup until a frenetic ending made Mizuho Sakaguchi’s late goal stand up as the winner in a 2-1 game.
The reigning champions threatened the goal far more often than the Netherlands on Tuesday night, and the underdogs couldn’t find their way to an equalizer.
A cheeky combination goal in the 78th minute salted it away, as Sakaguchi used a dummied pass and buried a shot from outside the 18 to make it 2-0.
A horrible goalkeeping gaffe from Ayumi Kaihori gave the Netherlands hope in the second minute of stoppage time, as Kirsten van de Ven was credited with the lone Dutch goal in a 2-1 loss.
The game’s first striking moment was a comically-terrible miss from Manon Melis of the Dutch
Ariyoshi struck in 10th minute, following up the fire a fluffed clearance into the goal from just inside the 18.
The second half saw the desperation of the Dutch lead to free-flowing play and excitement if not genuine opportunities.
Japan should’ve probably found an insurance goal, but all goals have been hard to come by for the champs. To be fair, Holland hasn’t allowed many either, with just two in group play.
Through 60 minutes, Japan’s tight defense only sacrificed one dangerous free kick, and the wall did its job to thwart the chance.
A 73rd minute cross from the Dutch saw the bounding pass leap over the head of not one but two would-be scorers.
But the Netherlands almost scored off a great 76th minute corner kick, as Kaihori pawed away a would-be own goal, and Japan’s defense blocked the resulting rebound chance.
Shortly after that, Japan finally hammered that proverbial nail into the coffin. But Kaihori flubbed Van de Ven’s bouncing shot into the net in minute No. 92 to provide some late drama.
Japan will face Australia on Saturday in Edmonton.