England U21s fall to Japan in Sultan of Johor Cup

Eng U21s

Japan U21 2 (0)
Koji Yamasaki 44, 68 (PC, FG)

England U21 1 (0)
James Gall 65 (FG)

England’s U21 men were once again undone by a late goal as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Japan at the Sultan of Johor Cup. Trailing to Koji Yamasaki’s second half penalty corner it looked like Jon Bleby’s side had rescued a point thanks to James Gall’s 65th minute finish. However with just two minutes to go Yamasaki pounced on a rebound to lift the ball into the net to condemn England to a 2-1 defeat.

Japan had the first clear chance as they won a penalty corner. However England’s runners were out quickly and snuffed out the danger. England took a while to get going but on 14 minutes they won a penalty corner of their own. Will Calnan took the honours but Hiroki Nakagami made a good save and cleared the danger. Japan were on the front foot for much of the opening quarter of the match but England defended superbly to ensure that chances were scarce.

Jon Bleby’s side started to come back into the contest and with Rhys Smith and Jack Clee linking well they began to push Japan further and further back. Calnan drew another save from the Japanese goalkeeper but still there was no way through for either side. Kyoichi Nagaya’s side resorted to leaving one man high up the pitch and playing aerial balls up to him for the remainder of the first period but despite some great work from Kaito Tanaka, who was denied by a good stop from Chris Wyver it was all square at the half way point.  

The second half started with chances at both ends. Japan almost took the lead but Yamasaki’s shot was wayward and flew wide whilst at the other end Nakagami was brought into action with a fine stop to turn the ball round the post.

Seven minutes after the break Japan forced a penalty corner and from this they broke the deadlock. Yamasaki slid in to get a touch and divert the ball over Wyver to make it 1-0.

England began to commit players forward in search of an equaliser, making Japan a threat on the break. A series of last ditch tackles by the English defence kept them at bay.

With ten minutes to go Bleby’s team won a penalty corner. Smith’s shot was repelled by the goalkeeper allowing Japan a quick break, Tanaka was clean through and got the ball past Wyver but the two defenders go t back to clear it off the line.  The pressure continued and with five minutes to go England drew level. Jack Turner took a quick free hit and picked out James Gall in space. The England captain took the ball into the circle and place a precise shot into the far corner for his first goal of the tournament.

Parity lasted just a matter of moments. Wyver did well to keep out 5’s close range shot but 17 was on hand to lift the rebound over the goalkeeper to give England a mountain to climb in the last two minutes. Bleby immediately withdrew the goalkeeper and went to kicking back but it was to no avail and Japan took the win.

Head Coach Bleby was disappointed afterwards, saying: “We’re a bit frustrated. Japan played well and deserve a lot of credit. We had a lot of the ball but we weren’t clinical enough. We need to make more of the possession we have. We need to be better in the last five minutes, too. That’s the second time we’ve conceded late so we’ll work on that going into our next game.

We’ll take a look at the video, analyse what we need to do and hopefully make more of the possession we have in the next match.”