DOHA: Substitute Fuki Yamada struck in the 91st minute and Leo Kokubo made a late penalty save to earn Japan a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan on Friday that secured Go Oiwa’s side the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ title at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

Yamada, introduced from the bench with 18 minutes remaining, struck into the bottom corner of Abduvakhid Nematov’s goal before Kokubo kept out Umarali Rakhmonaliev’s spot-kick nine minutes later to earn Japan their second AFC U23 Asian Cup title.

The dramatic finish came at the end of a tense encounter and it saw the Japanese win the title for the first time since 2016, when the Samurai Blue also lifted the trophy on Qatari soil.

Japan had survived an eighth minute scare when hesitation between Hiroki Sekine and Kota Takai gifted Alisher Odilov time to play Husain Norchaev into space behind the defence, but the striker was unable to punish the lapse as he fired into the side netting.

It was the Central Asians who were on the front foot throughout the opening quarter, captain Jasurbek Jaloliddinov launching a speculative effort in the 13th minute from distance that Kokubo collected with Timur Kapadze’s side dominating midfield.

Uzbekistan’s more energetic start forced the Japanese to adopt a patient approach, steadily taking control of possession while occasionally pressuring their opponents deep in their own half.

That almost paid off when Shuto Fujio and Rihito Yamamoto forced Ibrokhimkhalil Yuldoshev to misplace his pass out of the penalty area to the feet of Kein Sato, but the Japanese winger pulled his shot across Nematov’s goal.

It was a rare sight of the target for the Japanese as Uzbekistan’s Jaloliddinov hit the crossbar with a mishit cross from deep that Kokubo had covered with only four minute left in the half.

While Joel Fujita stung Nematov’s hands early in the second period and Kokubo was again called upon to push a mishit cross over his goal, this time from Ruslanbek Jiyanov, neither side was able to shake off the inertia that infected both for much of the game.

Oiwa’s introduction of Yamada and Sota Kawasaki almost paid off moments later when the pair combined, Yamada heading Kawasaki’s cross from the left bye-line over Nematov’s crossbar.

With three minutes remaining Seiji Kimura glanced his header across goal as the Japanese sought the winner and they did not have to wait long to go ahead, Yamada placing his shot into the corner from the edge of the area.

Sekine’s late handball cranked up the pressure as Uzbekistan were awarded a penalty in the 100th minute, but Kokubo threw himself to his right to keep out Rakhmonaliev’s strike and earn Japan the title.