DOHA: Four-time champions Japan moved into the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar as goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda earned the Samurai Blue a 3-1 win over Bahrain at Al Thumama Stadium. Iran joined them after beating Syria on penalties.

Hajime Moriyasu’s side will meet either the Islamic Republic of Iran or Syria in the last eight on Saturday after a largely accomplished performance, with the victory coming despite a wobble midway through the second half when Ueda headed the ball into his own net.
Doan put the Japanese in front in the 31st minute and Kubo doubled the lead three minutes into the second half before a 64th minute mix-up between Ueda and Zion Suzuki allowed Bahrain to halve the deficit. Ueda struck eight minutes later to restore the two-goal cushion.
The own goal was a rare moment of uncertainty for a Japan side that first forced Bahrain goalkeeper Ebrahim Lutfalla into action in the ninth minute, tipping Ueda’s header over the bar after the forward’s movement saw him find the space to power Kubo’s corner goalward.
Ali Madan brought a comfortable save out of Suzuki in a rare sortie forward for the Bahrainis, his shot from the edge of the area following a counterattack causing the Sint-Truiden goalkeeper few issues.
But just after the half hour mark the Japanese took the lead. Seiya Maikuma moved into space 25 yards from goal and unleashed a shot that beat Lutfalla before coming back off the post to Doan, who took a touch to control and then stroked home.
Ko Itakura headed Kubo’s free-kick into the penalty area wide of Lutfalla’s left post two minutes into the second half as the Japanese made a strong start to the second half and, a minute later, they doubled their advantage due to the quick thinking Kubo.
The Real Sociedad midfielder had won possession 25 yards from goal prior to playing towards Ueda and, while the striker let possession roll beyond him, Hazza Ali steered the ball towards his own goal and onto the toe of Kubo, who slotted past Lutfalla.
Referee Ahmad Al Ali initially blew his whistle for offside before being called to the pitch-side monitor and awarding the goal on review.
The Japanese were cruising until Suzuki and Ueda clashed on their own line to steer Sayed Baqer’s header into the goal in the 64th minute to bring the Bahraini fans among the crowd back to life.
The hopes of Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side were to last only eight minutes, however, as Ueda’s burst of pace took him clear inside the Bahrain penalty area and his assured finish flew through the legs of Lutfalla to guarantee Japan’s progress.

. . . AND IRAN
Iran advanced to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ quarter-finals after overcoming Syria 5-3 on penalties at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium after a 1-1 draw at the end of extra time.
Goals from the spot from Mehdi Taremi and Omar Khrbin either side of the halftime break meant the two sides were level after 90 minutes and there was nothing to separate them after extra time before Alireza Beiranvand helped his side settle the tie on penalties.
Team Melli had their first big chance of the game after just eight minutes when Alireza Jahanbakhsh fed Sardar Azmoun inside the box. The AS Roma forward’s first-time shot was parried by goalkeeper Ahmed Madanieh, but the ball was spilled back for Azmoun who hit it on the half-volley with his left but skied it on the rebound.
Madanieh showed his quality again with a fine diving save in the 25th minute to tip away Mehdi Ghayedi’s strike from outside the box for a corner kick that nearly produced a goal when the ball found its way to Iran captain Ehsan Hajsafi who hit it from the edge of the box, but was also denied by the Syrian goalkeeper.
The Syrian goalkeeper’s resilience was finally broken 10 minutes before the break when Mehdi Taremi stepped up and sent Madanieh the wrong way from the penalty spot for his third goal of the campaign and IR Iran’s opener.
The first test for goalkeeper Beiranvand came just six minutes before the end of the first half when left-back Mouaiad Al Ajjan carried the ball forward and hit an effort from outside the box that the Iranian goalkeeper dealt with confidently.
Coach Amir Ghalenoei’s men thought they had doubled their lead seven minutes after the restart when Ramin Rezaeian’s corner was headed by Azmoun past the Syrian goalkeeper, only for Abdulrahman Weiss to clear it off the goal line.
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Substitute Pablo Sabbag made an instant impact for Syria after coming off the bench just before the hour mark, with his very first touch of the ball, he moved behind the Iranian defence and looked to round the goalkeeper who brought him down conceding a penalty. Khrbin stepped up and coolly slotted home past Beiranvand to equalise for the Eagles of Qasioun.
Iran suffered a big blow in added time of the second half when Taremi was sent-off for a second bookable offence, leaving his side with 10 men going into the 30 minutes of extra time.
Two periods of intense action in the middle of the pitch with clear cut chances in sparse supply saw the two teams head into the penalty shootout at the end of 120 minutes.
Karim Ansarifard, Rezaeian, Omid Ebrahimi, Mehdi Torabi and Hajsafi scored for Iran, while Beiranvand’s save from Fahd Youssef was the decisive moment, earning Team Melli a place in the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals for the eighth time in a row.