A brilliant goalkeeping performance from Izwan Mahbud helped Singapore hold Japan to a 0-0 draw at the Saitama Stadium on Tuesday evening at the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup joint-qualifiers.
Japan, ranked 52nd in the world, had numerous chances in the game but came up against a stumbling block in goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who produced several big saves.
The draw meant that Singapore stays undefeated in the qualifiers, and lead the table at the moment with four points from two games.
Despite the gulf in rankings between both sides, Japan did not underestimate Singapore, and included big names such as AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa in their starting line-up.
However, the former Manchester United midfielder endured a tough afternoon, as he struggled to impose himself in the game against the likes of Hariss Harun, Zulfahmi Arifin and Izzdin Shafiq.
Honda on the other hand, had several chances on goal, but was denied by the superb Izwan.
As early as the fourth minute, the attacking midfielder had a chance from outside the box, but fired it straight at Izwan.
Seconds later, Khairul Amri had a chance at the other end, but he shot wide instead.
A threaded ball from Shibasaki Gaku found Kagawa in the 12th minute, but Izwan pushed the shot away with his right palm.
Japan continued to pressure the visitors, who had ten men behind the ball most of the time. But when they got past the defence, they failed to get the ball past Izwan.
Makato Hasebe was next to have a go, before Usami Takashi and Kagawa, but all three could not break the deadlock.
Zulfahmi had a rare chance for Singapore following a quick break in the 25th minute, but the LionsXII midfielder put his shot over instead.
Minutes later, Shinji Okazaki forced Izwan into another big save, before Makino Tomoaki headed wide from a Kosuke Ota corner.
After the restart, Singapore enjoyed a spell on the ball, but failed to break down the solid Japanese backline.
Instead, Takashi had an opportunity, but fired over in the 52nd minute.
Japan thought they had scored in the 55th minute when Okazaki met Ota’s cross, but Izwan somehow managed to claw the ball right on the line.
Honda then had four efforts on goal in the next 12 minutes, but Izwan produced amazing saves to stop him on all four occasions.
The post then came into Singapore’s rescue, with Honda curling his free-kick onto the woodwork, before Takashi’s shot from the rebound straight at Izwan.
A host of substitutions from both sides took the momentum off the game, although Honda had a golden chance after getting past his markers. His resulting shot though, was deflected over by Madhu Mohana.
With time running out, Khairul Nizam had a chance on the Japan goal after running at them, but could not trouble Eiji Kawashima with his effort.
Singapore held on eventually, earning a huge result to remain undefeated in the qualifiers.
MATCHDAY 2 FIXTURES:
Matchday 2 – June 16, 2015
Group A Timor-Leste 0-1 UAE
Group A Malaysia 0-6 Palestine
Group B Bangladesh 1-1 Tajikistan
Group B Kyrgyzstan 1-2 Australia
Group C Bhutan 0-6 China
Group C Hong Kong 2-0 Maldives
Group D Guam 2-1 India
Group D Turkmenistan 1-1 Iran
Group E Japan 0-0 Singapore
Group E Cambodia 0-1 Afghanistan
Group F Chinese Taipei 0-2 Thailand
Group G Myanmar 0-2 Korea Republic
Group G Laos 0-2 Lebanon
Group H DPR Korea 4-2 Uzbekistan
Group H Yemen 0-2 Philippines
MATCHDAY 1 RESULTS
Matchday 1 – June 11, 2015
Group A Malaysia 1-1 Timor-Leste
Group A Saudi Arabia 3-2 Palestine
Group B Bangladesh 1-3 Kyrgyzstan
Group B Tajikistan 1-3 Jordan
Group C Hong Kong 7-0 Bhutan
Group C Maldives 0-1 Qatar
Group D Guam 1-0 Turkmenistan
Group D India 1-2 Oman
Group E Cambodia 0-4 Singapore
Group E Afghanistan 0-6 Syria
Group G Laos 2-2 Myanmar
Group G Lebanon 0-1 Kuwait
Group H Philippines 2-1 Bahrain
Group H Yemen 0-1 DPR Korea
Matchday 3 – September 3, 2015
Matchday 4 – September 8, 2015
Matchday 5 – October 8, 2015
Matchday 6 – October 13, 2015
Matchday 7 – November 12, 2015
Matchday 8 – November 17, 2015
Matchday 9 – March 24, 2016
Matchday 10 – March 29, 2016