DOHA - Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima's topsy-turvy campaign ended perfectly when a clean sheet by the man of the match helped the Blue Samurai to a record fourth Asian Cup title.
Kawashima was criticised for the goals he conceded in a 3-2 win over Qatar in the quarter-finals. He then saved penalties in a shootout victory over South Korea before denying Australia several times in Saturday's final.
Australia striker Harry Kewell had the best chance at the Khalifa Stadium when he raced clear in the 71st minute only to see Kawashima block his low, drilled effort.
"I knew the situation so I just wanted to deflect the shot," the keeper told reporters.
Australia enjoyed the best opportunities and continually tested Kawashima with crosses but the Belgium-based keeper was up to the challenge.
Kawashima also clawed away a brilliant header from Australia substitute Robbie Kruse in extra-time before Tadanari Lee rifled home a volley to seal a 1-0 win.
"It's amazing, so fantastic, but a really tough game. We are so happy we won," said the 27-year-old keeper.
"We tried to play our game but unfortunately right from the beginning it was a little bit difficult. We had to be patient and the goal for us came from our patience."comments