SYDNEY: By Scott Kidson – The Australian futsal squad has overcome Friday’s disappointing 9-1 loss to record a 4-2 victory last Saturday night in their return match against Japan at Dural Sport and Leisure Centre.
Both sides moved around the court well early with the Japanese trying to penetrate directly through the centre of the court.
After failing with a similar structure the night before, the Australians used more width in attack. But it was a ball through the middle from Damian Pilat to Luke Haydon that almost reaped an early reward.
Haydon neatly turned his marker but couldn’t connect cleanly with the shot which Japan’s goalkeeper Hisamitsu Kawahara saved easily.
Possibly the game’s biggest event came after only seven minutes. Japan’s captain Takaaki Itchihara was helped from the court after dislocating his left elbow in a goal mouth scramble.
Peter Spathis was working overtime in the Australian net. Two saves during the play leading to Itchihara’s injury, then a great one-on-one save to Yuki Kanayama kept the Japanese scoreless.
Using the right flank, Adrian Vizzari found Simon Keith who fired off a shot which could only be parried for a corner by Kawahara.
When Vizzari was fouled during the next play, Australian captain and dead ball exponent Brett Hewit stood over the kick. His low blast rounded the wall leaving Kawahara little time to react. The Japanese custodian got across to the shot but the ball slipped under his body to give the Australians first blood.
Vizzari was in the thick of the action again seconds later for all the wrong reasons, swinging late at a high ball and collecting a defender. Referee Lyle Hudson cautioned the Australian firebrand.
Kanayama launched a strong attack for Japan down the right, cutting the ball back to Osamu Nambata at the top of the “D”. His shot beat Spathis, but passed wide of the target.
Coach Scott Gilligan toyed with combinations sending Angelo Konstantinou on for Spathis after thirteen minutes.
The ACT captain and goalkeeper was immediately entangled in a mix-up with Keith.
Konstantinou moved in to clear a loose ball during a Japanese raid, but Keith was also headed to relieve the danger. The two collided as the clearance rebounded of a Japanese attacker, but a returning Pilat cleared.
With less than five minutes left in the first half, the play shifted to the other end. Haydon producing a lovely rollover to beat his man, only to have his shot go wide as the Japanese cover arrived in numbers.
Kenichiro Kogure’s influence started to pervade the game in the minutes before the break. The Japanese target first produced a strike which Konstantinou could only block away. Moments later he tried a cheeky chip which Konstantinou batted down before having to stop a second shot from the Japanese target man.
Australia went into the break leading by a goal, but neither side was dominating.
The second half started brightly for Japan who thought they had scored just seconds after the restart. A worked moved from a kick-in ended with Fujii shooting inside the right post, but the goal was disallowed as Hudson correctly spotted a handball in the lead up.
At the other end 16-year-old debutant Danny Ngulase laid a sweet diagonal ball to Andrew Nolan who cut the ball to the back post for Hewit, but the Australian skipper changed his run at the last moment, leaving the ball to pass harmlessly over the by-line.
Kawahara mixed up Japan’s offence, ranging forward as the Australian defence waited for the pass. With no immediate threat the `keeper carried the ball past half way before launching a shot that cleared the crossbar by millimetres.
But from the restart the Aussie `keeper launched his own attack with smart throw finding Ngaluse open in the forward court and Japan missing in defence.
Fujii used a hand in breaking up the attack, gifting the locals a free kick from ten out.
Andrew Nolan fired the free kick square to Pilat who first timed it to Ngaluse on the back post. The debutant beat Kawahara to double the lead.
Kogure tried tirelessly to turn the game for the tourists. With the ball at his feet, he turned and beat both a defender and Konstantinou only to see his shot glide across the face of goal.
A minute later the scheming Ricardo Higa played a ball down the line for Kogure who drew a great save from the Australian custodian.
As the intensity increased, Haydon’s tired challenge earned Australia’s second yellow card but the visitors also headed into foul trouble chalking up their fifth with fourteen minutes remaining.
Two minutes later, the home team had their first “second penalty”. Vizzari duly thundered the 10 metre spot kick into the bottom right corner. Another foul followed but Vizzari pushed the second shot left staying the lead at three.
Ngaluse continued to impress, driving a shot from 12 metres that Kawahara got a hand to but couldn’t stop. The ball rattled off the post before being cleared.
Damian Pilot was next to pounce, intercepting Nambata’s square ball and firing off a shot which Kawahara saved well quickly moving Japan into counter-attack. Gavin O’Brien who had come on for Konstantinou raced to the edge of his area to make a great save at the feet of Kogure and kill the raid.
The frustration continued for Kogure who after a beautiful run along the left touchline saw his shot parried by O’Brien and drop to Fujii. The stand-in captain rushed a strike over the unattended net from 14 metres as the defence closed.
Australia hit five fouls with over eight minutes remaining. With the clock running only while the ball is in play, there was more than enough time for either side to take the game.
Patrick Suriano’s first touch saw him stripped, and when the ball fell to Kogure, the industrious front man was finally rewarded for his skill.
With sleight of foot, the number 10 left two Australian defenders on the floor before lifting the ball over the stranded O’Brien and reducing the deficit to two goals.
Rob Porritt called a foul when Keith stopped short of an advancing Kawahara. The Japanese custodian cleared the ball but ended up going over the top of the Australian flanker.
Ten metre specialist Yoshifumu Maeda came on court but sent the “second penalty” too far right. But Maeda was given a chance to redeem himself shortly after when Suriano was questionably called for a push on Fujii.
Maeda’s second effort was much better, but O’Brien was up to the challenge superbly pulling the ball down low and left.
Then against the run of play, Hewit snatched the ball mid-court, drew the last defender and distributed to Pilat. With the captain closing on the back post, Pilat ignored the pass option to beat Kawahara with a thumping low drive.
The 4-1 lead seemed insurmountable with only two minutes remaining.
Japan managed a consolation goal just seconds before the end. After Kogure seemed to handle at the top of the “D”, Marty Calvert was called for the same foul although the ball appeared to hit the target high on the chest.
Nambata dutifully converted the spot kick from 6 metres to conclude the scoring.
Australia 4 – Hewit (10), Ngaluse (25), Vizzari (28), Pilat (38)
Japan 1 – Kogure (33), Nambata (40)
Yellow Cards: Vizzari (AUS), Haydon (AUS)
Referees: Rob Porritt (FIFA) and Lyle Hudson (FIFA)
3rd Official: Adrian Tamplin (FIFA)
Timekeeper: Tony Chan