Lee proud of winning goal for Japan

DOHA - Deep into extra-time in a tight Asian Cup final and left all alone by Australia's defence, Japan substitute Tadanari Lee had only one thought as a cross floated towards him.

"When the ball came to me I thought I needed to smash it," striker Lee told reporters after his superb effort gave Japan a 1-0 win in the final at the Khalifa Stadium and the Blue Samurai a record fourth Asian Cup title.

The left-foot volley near the penalty spot was superbly executed and sailed in to the corner of the net in the 109th minute of a game the Japanese could feel fortunate to win having offered Australia a host of goal-scoring opportunities.

The technical brilliance of the goal was of no surprise as Japan's youthful squad continually proved their ability on the ball throughout an unbeaten run in Doha. The identity of the scorer, though, may have raised a few eyebrows.

Lee, 25, was making just his second appearance for the Blue Samurai, after coming off the bench to make his debut in their opening Group B stoppage-time draw with Jordan.

He trotted on to the field in the 98th minute on Saturday to replace the tired-looking Ryoichi Maeda.

"The substitute players like Lee are always waiting for their chance and he got his big chance tonight," defender Maya Yoshida said.

The Tokyo-born striker, who has South Korean heritage and trained with their youth teams before pledging his future to Japan, was pleased with his efforts.

"I am proud of this game. I'm not Korean, I'm not Japanese, I'm a footballer," the Sanfrecce Hiroshima player said.


As brilliant a finish as it was by Lee the Australian defence, which had conceded only one goal en route to the final, will be left wondering how the striker was afforded plenty of space in their penalty area.

Australia, who wasted a number of chances to win the game in normal time, contained Japan well throughout and the opposition struggled without the cutting edge of their injured attacker Shinji Kagawa.

But in the second period of extra time Yuto Nagatomo skipped past Luke Wilkshire on the wing and his cross was misjudged by Australian left back David Carney before landing on Lee's foot.

"One lapse of concentration, perhaps one moment of fatigue in extra time, has gifted them a goal," said dejected Australia captain Lucas Neill.

"At this level if you don't take your chances and you give your opponents one and they take it, that will be the difference."