Japan get off to winning start at World Cup
Bochum, Germany: Japan got their women`s World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Group B rivals New Zealand here on Monday.
But the Japanese Nadeshiko were pushed hard by the New Zealand Ferns who had been looking to score their first point in their third appearance in a World Cup.
Yuki Nagasato and Aya Miyama scored for Japan with Amber Hearn heading in for New Zealand.
It was the second major international tournament where the two sides had met in the opening match after the 2008 Olympics where New Zealand held Japan 2-2.
The more experienced Japanese got off to a confident start with Nagasato opening after just six minutes when she lobbed a Shinobu Ohno cross past Jenny Bindon in the New Zealand goal.
It was the 32nd goal in 64 international matches for the 23-year-old Nagasato who plays club football in the German league for Turbine Potsdam.
The Japanese pushed forward and missed a chance to pull further ahead four minutes later when Nagasato set up Miyama in front of goal only for the Okayama Yunogo Belle player to miss the target.
But New Zealand kept pace with Hearn grabbing the equaliser after 12 minutes when she latched onto a Ria Percival corner to head past Ayumi Kaihori to the delight of the crowd at the Ruhrstadion in Bochum.
Despite the Asians making most of the running the Kiwi defence and Bindon proved solid as they held off wave after wave of attacks from the Japanese forwards which missed successive chances to pull ahead.
Four minutes before the break it was the turn of Hearn to miss the target as she found herself alone in front of the goal only to hit wide.
Back after the break New Zealand pushed forward with a corner swung in by Anna Green kept out just by the tips of Kaihori`s fingers.
But Japan finally broke through again when Miyama stepped up to take a free kick following a yellow card handed out to New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith after 68 minutes.
Substitute Mana Iwabuchi had an 83rd minute effort held by Bindon, as Hearn missed the chance to pull off a later equaliser when she hit a free kick over the bar in extra time.
Japan, ranked fourth, have competed in every edition of the tournament since it began in 1991, and are favourites to advance in the group which also includes England and Mexico who play later in Wolfsburg.
New Zealand have never won a game at the World Cup.