Japan edge battling Scotland as VAR controversy mars win
Japan scored twice in the first half in a 2-1 win over Scotland, a result that leaves Shelley Kerr's side's hopes hanging by a thread at the women's World Cup.
Mana Iwabuchi scored the opening goal on 23 minutes before Yuika Sugasawa added a penalty 14 minutes later to put Japan 2-0 clear.
Lana Clelland struck on 88 minutes from long range, but it was ultimately another 2-1 defeat after they lost by the same scoreline to England in their World Cup opener on Sunday.
Scotland were also denied a clear-cut penalty when a Japan player handled in the closing minutes, but for some reason the match officials opted against using VAR to revisit the decision.
It leaves Scotland needing to beat Argentina in their final group game to keep alive their hopes of reaching the last 16.
Japan played an up-tempo game from the outset, conceding possession to the Scots but hassling and harrying them all over the pitch.
The breakthrough came after 23 minutes. Rachel Corsie made a critical error in trying to clear a routine ball from the left, sending a tame header straight to Jun Endo, who squared it to Iwabuchi, who shot from the edge of the box. Jenny Beattie hesitated in closing down the effort, which flew over Lee Alexander into the back of the net.
Scotland were clearly rattled and would have fallen further behind were it not for a goal-line clearance from Kim Little by the time the contentious second goal arrived.
Lizzie Arnot of Scotland is challenged by Risa Shimizu of Japan during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group D match between Japan and Scotland at Roazhon Park on June 14, 2019 in Rennes, France.Getty Images
Risa Shimizu sent in a decent cross from the right towards Sugasawa, who got goalside of Corsie. The Scotland skipper put an arm on the shoulder of the Japan attacker, who went down softly. The referee duly pointed to the spot and declined a VAR referral. Sugasawa picked herself up and sent Alexander the wrong way.
Scotland could have been dead and buried on the stroke of half-time. Aya Sameshima got down the left brilliantly and pulled it back to Hina Sugita, whose scuffed effort bounced agonisingly off the bar.
At the other end, Scotland offered precious little. Hayley Lauder had a tame effort from way outside the box scooped up easily by Ayaka Yamashita, while Erin Cuthbert’s dipping shot from distance went just over.
After the break, Japan looked to hammer home their advantage but chances were few and far between, with the closest they came to the third goal was an effort from Nakajima which Alexander did well to parry wide of the post.
Scotland made the odd dart forward but it was not until the closing stages that they began to look like putting the Japanese under pressure. Beattie headed down a Caroline Weir set piece to Cuthbert, whose close-range effort hit the woodwork.
Cuthbert was a constant thorn in the side of the Japan defence late on and had two credible penalty shouts turned down, the first under a challenge from Ichise, the second after Shimizu clearly handled the ball. In both cases, the referee was unmoved and elected against using VAR.
The goal finally came too late. Ichise, who had been impressive, played a terrible pass into the path of Clelland, who went for goal and found the back of the net from the edge of the box. But Corsie’s two errors in the first half had done the critical damage and Scotland’s late flourish was not enough to force a draw.
TALKING POINT – VAR questions raised again
There can be no doubting that Sugasawa went down under the most minimal contact from Corsie, but the referee elected against a second look. Scotland’s fury was compounded late on when Shimizu clearly handled the ball when Cuthbert was threatening late on that would have offered them a route back into the match and there appears to be no end in sight for the controversy surrounding referrals in this tournament.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – Mana Iwabuchi (Japan)
Iwabuchi was installed into the starting line-up and was key to settling any Japanese nerves after their disappointing blank against Argentina in their World Cup opener. Prior to the opener, she looked likeliest to make the breakthrough and her goal was well taken.
- Japan: Yamashita 6, Shimizu 7, Kumagai 6, Ichise 7, Sameshima 7, Nakajima 7, Miura 6, Sugita 6, Endo 7, Sugasawa 7, Iwabuchi 8..subs: Kobayashi 6, Hasegawa N/A
- Scotland: Alexander 7, Smith 5, Corsie 4, Beattie 6, Lauder 7, Evans 5, Little 6, Weir 5, Arnot 5, Cuthbert 6, Ross 6..subs: Emslie 6, Clelland 7, Brown N/A
- 23' - GOAL! Japan have the lead and Scotland have only themselves to blame. Corsie produces a terrible header to try to clear a cross from the left. Endo picks up the loose ball to Iwabuchi, who shoots from the edge of the box and finds the back of the net. Alexander will feel she should have done better there.
- 37 - GOAL! Sugasawa picks herself up to take the penalty.. And sends Alexander the wrong way! Scotland face an uphill battle now.
- 84 - Terrible, terrible decision. Cuthbert brings the ball under control in the box but is under close attention from Shimizu, who appears to punch the ball away. Somehow the referee is unmoved and declines the opportunity to double-check her decision on VAR. Baffling.
- 88' - GOAL! Scotland's pressure has paid off! Ichise plays a terrible ball under no pressure straight to Clelland, who goes for goal and finds the back of the net from the edge of the box. Scotland are back in it!
- After losing their first nine Women's World Cup games against European teams, Japan have won their last six.
- Scotland have conceded a penalty in both of their first two Women's World Cup matches, matching Ecuador and Switzerland, who both managed it in 2015.
- Japan are the first team from outside Europe to beat a European team at this tournament