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Phnom Penh: Four goals from Ren Komatsu helped Japan get their 2018 AFC U-23 Championship Group J qualifying campaign off to a flying start on Wednesday as the competition’s title holders secured a comfortable 8-0 win over the Philippines.

Despite torrential rain at Phnom Penh’s National Olympic Stadium threatening to spoil the game as a spectacle, Japan mastered the conditions early on and took a tenth minute lead when Tsukasa Morishima received the ball just inside the box and fired home an unstoppable strike off the underside of the bar to open the scoring.

Komatsu duly doubled Japan’s lead on 23 minutes as he ghosted in behind the Filipino defence to connect with Morishima’s teasing cross from the left, before he made the most of a Richard Talaroc error to bag his second - and Japan’s third - of the game just six minutes later.

Morishima duly added a second strike of his own from close range shortly after the half hour mark, before Komatsu completed his hat-trick with three minutes of the half remaining when he connected with captain Daisuke Sakai’s cross to send Japan into the break five goals to the good.

The irrepressible forward then notched his fourth less than a minute after the restart, tapping home Daisuke Sakai’s whipped cross into the box from ten yards out.

Further efforts from Yuka Nakasaka and Ito Hiroki before the full-time whistle added further gloss to the scoreline that reasserted Japan’s intent to qualify for next year’s continental gathering.

Japan coach Uchiyama Atsushi
“Despite the weather, and the rain, our players lost a bit of concentration. But it was a good result for an opening game. The Philippines were well organised in defence and they did well on the counter attack. But we tried to show that we are stronger.”
“We know it will be very difficult in our next game against Cambodia especially as they have home advantage. But of course, we will try because we want to win.

Philippines coach Marlon Maro
“We were exposed and it’s always a challenge against teams like Japan. But we will have to learn
from the experience.”


Cambodia opened their 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualifying account with a point thanks as they were held to a 0-0 draw by China who will host next year’s continental extravaganza.

After enjoying a bright start to the Group J fixture, Cambodia struck the woodwork in the 23rd minute through Chheng Meng’s 40-yard free-kick, with Chinese goalkeeper Zhao Tianci pleased to see the ball bounce away to safety.

China’s best chance in an open first half came when Li Shuai’s cross was met by the head of Xiang Baixu who rose highest in the box. But the tall striker agonisingly sent his header inches wide of Cambodian custodian Um Sereirath’s goal.

China emerged for the second half knowing they would need to improve if they were to get anything from the game, but found the central defensive pairing of Cambodia captain Soeuy Visal and Choum Pisa a decidedly difficult barrier to breach.

Baixu duly made way for striker Yang Liyu as the Chinese pushed forward in search of a goal but he too was well shackled by the resilient Cambodians.

Despite Sereirath being the busier of the two goalkeepers, China failed to find a way through as the spoils were shared in the rain.

China coach Massimiliano Maddaloni
“The first thing is that we didn’t really consider the quality of the pitch here in Cambodia. It proved quite difficult for us to play our game. But I respect Cambodia and, especially in midfield, they gave us lots of pressure throughout the game. Even Japan will face lots of difficulties against them I’m sure.”

Cambodia coach Leonardo Vitorino
“First of all I want to thank our supporters. You ask me to pick a man of the match but for me it was the whole team. A team effort. We know China have good players in midfield, so we knew that we had to target them in the middle of the pitch. I think the players did a really good job."

Photos: Football Federation of Cambodia

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