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Riffa: Japan won the AFC U-19 Championship title for the first time in the country’s history on Sunday as Atsushi Uchiyama’s side defeated Saudi Arabia 5-3 on penalties at the Bahrain National Stadium.

Koki Ogawa scored the deciding penalty in the final round of spot kicks after Abdullah Magrshi thumped his effort over the bar in the preceding round after 90 minutes of regulation time plus an additional 30 minutes ended goalless.

The win brings to an end a run of seven appearances in the final without a win in the continental championship for the Japanese, who will travel to the FIFA U-20 World Cup next year in Korea Republic alongside Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Vietnam as Asia’s representatives. Korea Republic will also play as tournament hosts.

The Saudis started with the same line-up that handed the Islamic Republic of Iran a 6-5 defeat in the semi-finals while Japan coach Uchiyama made wholesale changes from the team that brushed aside Vietnam, with only midfielder Mizuki Ichimaru surviving.

Japan came into the game having not conceded a goal throughout either qualifying or during the finals and Uchiyama’s side were facing a Saudi Arabia that had the most potent attack of tournament, netting 16 goals in the five matches leading up to the final.

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So it was no surprise Saudi Arabia started quickly and, within the first two minutes, Saad Al Shehri’s side would have taken the lead but for a fine save by Ryosuke Kojima, who sprung to his right to push Ayman Al Khulaif’s shot onto the post. Four minutes later captain Sami Al Naji fired his free-kick high over the bar while Koki Ogawa hit the side netting at the other end less than a minute later.

With seven minutes remaining in the half, the Saudis went close again as Al Khulaif’s low curling pass from the right gave Abdulrahman Al Yami time and space to pick his spot, but the young striker fired high over the bar from just 12 yards out.

A tight first half was followed by a second period that was just as closely contested, with neither side managing to gain the upper hand. Rakan Al Anaze saw his attempt six minutes after the restart deflected wide for a corner while Yuto Iwasaki’s effort at the other end of the pitch suffered a similar fate.

Al Khulaif, with ten minutes left of regulation time, could do no better than thrash his shot well over the bar before Daisuke Sakai found goalkeeper Amin Al Bukhari with his tame header at goal three minutes later.

The game went into extra time and still neither side could find a way through, with Keita Endo’s cross marginally too high for the unmarked Iwasaki to nod into the Saudi goal. Naif Kireiri, meanwhile, saw his free-kick palmed safely away by Ryosuke Kojima.

That took the game into a penalty shootout and, after three successful rounds for both teams, Magrshi put his effort over the bar with the second penalty of the penultimate round to leave Ogawa to claim the title for Japan.

Photos: AFC