Kumi Yokoyama’s go-ahead goal late in the game delivered the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup crown to Japan in a pulsating finals against Australia, 1-0, in Amman.
But it was keeper extraordinaire Ayaka Yamashita who took care for her entire team, blocking all rockets launched by Australia and keeping her country’s team safe from harm.
Yamashita, clearly the finals most valuable player, displayed relentless goalkeeping by blocking an astonishing five consecutive Australian shots at the 14th minute, before teammate Saki Kumagai conceded a penalty kick with a hand ball inside the box.
Nonetheless, Yamashita was there again to block Elise Kellond-Knight’s penalty kick.
At the 38th minute, Yamashita displayed her wares again, blocking successive shots from Emily Van Egmond and Samantha Kerr to keep their score at nil.
Still, Yamashita would not stop working in the second half, blocking three Australian attempts at the 60th minute. She would repeat this by blocking two Australian shots at the 71st minute.
All her defensive efforts were rewarded as the exhausted Matildas lagged behind on defense for the remainder of the game, with Japan gaining the upper hand on offense, which led to Yokoyama’s goal at the 84th minute–a beautiful strike from top of the box off a sidestep to the right, eluding the defense of Clare Polkinghorne and Allana Kennedy.
Australia still tried to tie the game but Yamashita would not fail, blocking two attempts by Kellond-Knight at the 90th minute. With those, Japan clinched its second straight Asian Cup.
In the battle for third, China trounced an exhausted Thailand squad, 3-1.