Jordan stun Japan to check World Cup progress

Goalkeeper Amer Sabbah pulled off a heroic late penalty stop on Tuesday as Jordan stunned Japan 2-1 to reignite their World Cup hopes and foil the Asian champions’ hopes of booking an early ticket to Brazil 2014.

A headed goal on the stroke of half-time and a breakaway effort on the hour-mark put the hosts 2-0 ahead but Japan got one back through Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, and then earned a penalty just a minute later.

However, Sabbah flung himself at Yasuhito Endo’s well-taken spot-kick to earn Jordan the points that take them from bottom to second in Group B — and deny Japan the draw that would have made them the first country to qualify for the World Cup.

At the final-round qualifier inside a cacaphonic King Abdullah International Stadium, Ahmad Ibrahim flashed an early warning when he rounded Atsuto Uchida and stung Japan ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima’s hands at his near post on the quarter-hour.

At the other end, Ryoichi Maeda beat the offside trap and headed off the crossbar as Japan, the runaway leaders in Group B, pressed with their customary attacking flair, despite the absence of blond talisman Keisuke Honda.

But it was Jordan who took the lead in first-half injury time when Khalil Bani Ateyah stole in unmarked and met Amer Deeb’s corner with a header which crashed past Kawashima.

And Japan’s defence was also found wanting in the 59th minute when Gotoku Sakai lost the ball near the halfway line and Ibrahim cruised past the last defender, drifted central and poked it past the outstretched Kawashima.

Japan threw on tall striker Mike Havenaar and they got their break on 69 minutes when Hiroshi Kiyotake beat the defence with a cute backheel to Kagawa, who drilled it into the Jordanian net to make it 2-1.

Just a minute later Japan, needing only a draw to qualify for Brazil after Australia were held 2-2 by Oman earlier, appeared odds-on to book their ticket when Atsuto Uchida was brought down in the box by Jordan’s Abdallah Salim.

Despite green laser flashes from the crowd shining on his face, Endo was calmness personified as he struck a solid penalty to Sabbah’s left — but the goalkeeper stretched full-length to make a brilliant stop.

Yasuyuki Konno flashed a shot narrowly wide but Jordan held on for the win which boosted their World Cup hopes and delayed the progress of Japan, previously unbeaten in the final qualifying round, to next year’s World Cup.

The top two in both groups of five teams qualify automatically, with the two third-placed sides going into a play-off series. Japan lead Group B on 13 points, six ahead of Jordan.

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