Doha: Ten-man Japan struggled past Syria 2-1 in a high-octane and controversial Asian Cup group match to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Captain Makoto Hasebe opened the scoring for the three-time champions in the 35th minute but Syria pulled one back from a penalty controversially awarded against goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima on 76 minutes.
Kawashima was adjudged to have brought down Sanharib Malki despite the player being flagged offside.
Japanese players and team officials protested loudly but Iranian referee Torky Mohsen gave a penalty and dismissed the goalkeeper in chaotic scenes.
Shusaku Nishikawa came on as a replacement and the first thing he had to do was pick the ball from the back of the net after Firas Al Khatib calmly converted the spot kick.
Down to 10 men, Japan nevertheless stepped up a gear and their World Cup hero Keisuke Honda slotted in the winner from another penalty six minutes later.
"The referee`s decision was wrong," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said.
"We confirmed the linesman raised the flag but the referee ruled it was not an offside, saying that the ball was in the process of a Japanese back pass," said the former AC Milan boss. "We will check the video again."
Syrian`s Romanian coach Tita Valeriu hit back: "I agreed that the red card against the Japanese goalkeeper was correct."
"This goalkeeper deserved that red card because our player was alone at the back and he hindred him."