GOAL TIME: Japanese players celebrate one of their four goals against Palestine.
GOAL TIME: Japanese players celebrate one of their four goals against Palestine. Tony Federgetty IMAGES

Title holder kicks off with a win

REIGNING champion Japan has issued a statement of intent with a 4-0 thrashing of Asian Cup debutant Palestine in Newcastle.

The Blue Samurai put the Palestinians to the sword in the first half with goals from Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Okazaki and Kesuke Honda.

And just three minutes after the break a fourth from Maya Yoshida confirmed Japan's dominance as it looked to run riot in this Group D opener.

But Palestine dug in and despite having Ahmed Mahajnabut sent off with more than 20 minutes remaining, it held on with no further damage on the scoreline.

Endo, playing his 149th game for his country, rifled Japan in front on eight minutes and the writing was on the wall for the new boys.

Shinji Okazaki, who has been in great form for his German club side Mainz, doubled the lead from close range with a sharp header after 25 minutes before star man Kesuke Honda added a third just before half-time from the penalty spot.

Defender Musab Battat clumsily bundled over

Shinji Kagawa in the penalty area and Honda, player of the tournament four years ago, stepped up to send Ramzi Saleh the wrong way with the spot kick.

Southampton defender Yoshida headed home from Kagawa's cross just after the break and it looked like the floodgates would open but Palestine stayed resolute and defender Abdallatif Al-Bahdari almost snatched a consolation as Japan eased up in readiness for tougher games ahead.


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