Late winner sinks All Whites as Japan prove too classy in Nagoya
All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is disappointed after his side gave up a late winner in a friendly loss to Japan.
The 2-1 loss on a wet Friday night at Toyota Stadium in Nagoya featured a respectable performance against the 40th-ranked side in the world, but not the result Hudson or his charges were after.
"If I'm totally honest, my initial feeling is one of huge disappointment because we did so well, showed so much character, showed a lot of fight to get back into the game at a difficult place. We were so close to getting a huge result away from home," Hudson said.
"With the disappointment I'm incredibly proud of the players because we said at the beginning this is a two-legged affair, home and away, and we're still in it."
Shu Kurata grabbed the winner two minutes from time with a header from close range. That was after Chris Wood's 58th-minute header cancelled out Yuya Osako's opener from the penalty spot eight minutes earlier.
It was a match Japan dominated for long periods, although New Zealand were able to grab a foothold in the game either side of halftime. The best you could say about the opening 20 minutes though was the All Whites didn't concede.
Japan had a host of chances to go one-up, but failed to convert. Shinji Kagawa had the best of them when firing his shot from 12 yards out against the right upright.
Oddly, Japan did their best work from long balls - something you would have backed New Zealand's big, experienced back three of Andrew Durante, Winston Reid and Michael Boxall to deal with.
Japan's balls forward were accurate and their superior body positions meant they could bring the ball down easily and layoff to their support players, or flick on for runners to go through on goal.
New Zealand got into the game more and more as the pace of the game slowed in the second part of the half.
They showed small flashes of decent play, but they only had a Wood shot that went over the top from outside the box after 34 minutes to show for it.
Hudson said it was clearly not the start they were after, but was pleased with how his side recovered.
"We can prepare and we can talk all we want, but then the whistle blows and you're playing a very, very good team like Japan and they start quick and they attack you.
"We actually need to learn how to manage those periods better, but certainly I think after 20 minutes we then started to relax and started to do what we set out to do at the beginning."
The All Whites abandoned the high pressing game they have implemented for most of Hudson's reign in this match, opting to sit back for the most part. That was probably due to their approach to the game, treating it like the away leg of November's Fifa World Cup qualifying intercontinental playoff against the fifth-placed South American team.
They also struggled to deal with Japan's press, often losing possession as quickly as they had won it.
The second half started poorly for New Zealand with Durante conceding the penalty due to a handball in the box after a shot was driven straight at him. Osako duly converted.
But they enjoyed a good spell of play shortly after, capped by Wood's goal in the 59th minute. Rojas curled a great cross to the back post which a striker of Wood's quality was never going to miss. It was a rare good piece of service from a wide area, something which New Zealand will need to improve by November.
Japan had the better of the chances across the final 30 minutes and found the winner two minutes from time. A cross was nodded back across goal to be headed in by Kurata. It came after New Zealand's right flank, being defender by Durante and Dane Ingham, was exploited for the umpteenth time. It remains a big area of concern ahead of November.
Michael McGlinchey brought up his 50th cap in the match.
Japan 2 (Yuya Osako 50' (pen), Shu Kurata 88') New Zealand 1 (Chris Wood 58'). HT: 0-0.