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Syria 0 Japan 3: Honda, Okazaki and Usami strike to claim top spot

Japan moved to the top of Group E in the Asian World Cup qualifying section, unseating Syria with a confident 3-0 victory in Muscat.

Vahid Halilhodzic's were frustrated during a goalless first-half but Keisuke Honda broke the deadlock with a 55th minute penalty.

Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki led the visiting attack impressively and doubled the advantage following excellent work by Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

Substitute Takashi Usami completed the scoring two minutes from time as Japan moved on to 10 point – one better off than their game opponents.

Syria began with a confidence befitting of group leaders and Japan's Inter defender Yuto Nagatomo was forced into a pair of important clearances.

Japan began to establish control of possession by midway through the first half and Nagatomo made sure his presence was felt in the other half of the field – breaking down the left and crossing for Okazaki to send a deflected header wide.

Okazaki enjoyed Japan's best opening of the first half in the 26th minute but dragged a miss-hit shot wide of the far post before Syria's Mahmoud Al Mawas launched an audacious 40-yard attempt.

Al Mawas was in a more productive mood as half-time approached, threading a fine throughball for Abdelrazaq Al Hussain to shoot wide on the angle.

An acrobatic header from Syria defender Ahmad Alsalih prevented Okazaki from opening the scoring but Japan's pressure eventually told 10 minutes into the second half.

The Leicester man went down under a challenge from Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Almeh, who was then powerless as Honda confidently stroked home.

Almeh was out sharply to deny Okazaki before the striker got the goal his efforts deserved in the 70th minute.

Kagawa brilliantly skipped past a pair of desperate challenges, bursting into the left-hand side of the box to leave Okazaki with a tap in.

Syria visibly tired in the closing stages and there was a picture-book third for Japan – Honda's audacious backheel setting up Usami to fire home and seal the points.

The verve with which Usami tore into the Syrian defence was the last thing they needed and he sped through to drill wide in stoppage time.