Japan’s Takehiro Tomiyasu (right) takes control as Turkmenistan’s Arslanmurat Amanov attempts to block him. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu has revealed that they changed their tactics in the second half and that helped them salvage a hard-fought 3-2 win over Turkmenistan in their opening Group F game at the AFC Asian Cup UAE at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Wednesday.

The four-time champions were trailing at break after Turkmenistan shot into lead though a breathtaking Arslanmurat Amanov’s stunning long-range strike had threatened to earn the latter their first-ever victory at the continental finals.

“At the break, I went over the first half and told my players about our transition play,” said Moriyasu. “There was a battle around the ball and we needed to read the game better than we had been doing. We made it difficult for ourselves after conceding the goal.”

Japan clawed their way back into the match riding on a brace of goals by Yuya Osako before Ritsu Doan sealed the win. Ahmet Atayev later reduced the margin in the 79th minute through a penalty but it wasn’t enough to see Turkmenistan home. “In the first half, we struggled a little with Turkmenistan’s tight defence, but we moved the ball well and I thought that was effective,” revealed Moriyasu, adding that in the second half his side were more dynamic and showed the desire to improve.

“Our approach play was better, and I think that was the reason behind our three goals,” he added. “We could, though, have done more combination play and have played the ball forward more often, so that is something that we will look to rectify in our next match against Oman.”

Moriyasu asserted that he expected a tight game from the beginning as it was the first outing and against a strong team.

“It was predictable that the first match of the tournament would be a difficult one, and that is something which I shared with the team,” he said.

“It turned out to be just as we had predicted, but the good thing was that we won and that we could deliver a victory to our fans both here in the UAE and back home in Japan. However, for the next match, we must improve in both defence and attack.

Japan will play their next match against Oman on Sunday at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.

Turkmenistan’s head coach Yazguly Hojageldiyev, speaking about his team’s showing, said: “A lapse in concentration after the half-time break cost us the game but we will bounce back strongly in the next outing against Uzbekistan. We knew Japan would control the ball a lot, but we seemed to lose concentration in the second half.”

Hojageldiyev went on to reveal that they are not out of the competition so will work hard for the next match.

“The next game is a very important one for us, and even though we are not entirely certain how we will prepare just yet, I know the players will be ready to give their all for our next two games,” he said.

Turkmenistan take on Uzbekistan at Rashid Stadium in Dubai on Sunday.