[ASIAN CUP] Substitute Tadanari Lee's spectacular volley in overtime edged Japan past Australia, 1-0, in the Asian Cup final Saturday night in Doha, Qatar.
Deprived of dynamic striker Shinji Kagawa, who suffered a broken foot in Japan's semifinal shootout win South Korea, the Japanese fended off numerous Australian attacks before Yuto Nagatomo launched a cross from near the left-wing corner flag that Lee nailed first-time into the top corner from about nine yards out.
That goal, in the 109th minute, harshly punished the near-misses Australia had accumulated. Though Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Matt McKay were laboring more than they had in the previous five matches as the Aussies hit 13 goals, they manufactured numerous chances but couldn't get the ball past keeper Eiji Kawashima and/or the crossbar.
Sent clean through in the second half, Kewell fired a hard, low shot that Kawashima blocked with his extended right foot. Twice the keeper tipped goal-bound shots onto the crossbar to be hastily cleared by his teammates.
"This was a fantastic win and Japan are a fantastic team," said Japan's Italian coach, Alberto Zaccheroni. "Australia were a really strong side and we had to do really well to beat them. Everyone was tired, but we overcame that through fantastic team spirit."
Lee, born it parents of Korean descent, earned just his second cap. He scored his first goal for Japan, which had failed to beat Australia twice in the World Cup qualifiers two years ago and fell to the Aussies, 3-1, at the 2006 World Cup after leading, 1-0, until the 84th minute.
Japan won the Asian Cup for the fourth time with a squad listing just one player, Yasuhito Endo, over 30 years of age; Australia, which conceded only its second goal of the tournament in the final, must replace numerous veterans as it prepares for the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Asian Cup that it will host.