Scotland made to pay for slow start in second World Cup defeat


Two first-half goals from Japan set the tone as Scotland fell to a 2-1 defeat in their second World Cup group stage game.

Mana Iwubuchi struck first as she dispatched a powerful strike past Lee Alexander midway through the half. Scotland were then punished for sloppy defending as Yuika Sugasawa stroked home from twelve yards after Rachel Corsie was judged to have made a foul.

The Tartan Army’s hopes of progressing to the World Cup knock-out stages were dealt a hammer blow after a slow first half performance in which defensive fatalities and a lack-lustre attacking threat were evident.

Shelley Kerr’s side produced a more testing act in the second half, but Scotland were forced to wait until the 88th-minute when substitute Lana Clelland grabbed a late consolation goal.

Both sides made a handful of changes to their starting eleven; however, Japan, with aspirations of ultimately reaching their third World Cup Final in as many campaigns, were far too strong an outfit for Shelley Kerr’s team.

World Cup hopes hinged on victory for both

In what was the penultimate group stage game for both sides, defeat was always going to be a massive blow if either team wanted to qualify for the knock-out stages.

Japan were unable to break through a well-organised Argentinian defence on Monday; however, the world’s seventh best team were determined to bounce back as they made three changes from their previous match.

Scotland coach Shelley Kerr knew they would need to match Argentina’s work-rate to earn at least a point as she made four changes to the team that narrowly lost to England on Sunday.

The Scottish goalscorer five days ago, Claire Emslie, missed out along with Sophie Howard, Nicola Docherty and Christie Murray. Meanwhile, Kirsty Smith, Hayley Lauder, Lizzie Arnot and Jane Ross were all added to the starting squad.

Despite the 0-0 draw with Argentina being Japan’s first clean sheet in eight attempts, Scotland’s sloppy first half defending matched their performance against England and they could only stand and watch as their hopes of progressing in the World Cup were left hanging on a knife-edge.

Kerr’s side produced a much greater showing in the second half but, similarly to their defeat to England, the Scottish will be left thinking ‘what if’ after waiting too long to respond to conceding before ramping through the gears of their performance levels.

Japanese too strong for weak Scottish

Shoya Nakajima had the first clear sight of goal when she latched onto a loose ball on the edge-of-the-box inside the opening ten minutes; however, the 24-year-old’s dragged shot bounced narrowly past the post.

In what was a scrappy opening quarter of the match, Scotland soon had their own chance to test their opponents.

Hayler Lauder’s diagonal ball forward enabled Jane Ross to drive forward in attack. The 29-year-old held the ball up before returning it to Lauder, but the final effort was poor and skidded into Ayaka Yamashita’s gloves.

Mana Iwabuchi burst into the box from a tight angle when she won possession from Scotland. However, the attacking midfielder’s shot was held well at the near post by Alexander.

Aya Sameshima received the first booking of the game on 20 minutes with an overzealous attempt to win the ball from Rachel Corsie.

Iwabuchi broke the deadlock soon after her previous testing effort, however, as she rifled beyond Alexander on her first World Cup start. Jun Endo fed the ball to her team-mate who took a touch before directing a dipping shot past Alexander on 22 minutes.

Jen Beattie and Corsie made what were certainly goal-denying blocks as they stood firm to the endless waves of the Japanese attack. Moments later, Kim Little arrived at the right time to clear a Yuika Sugasawa effort from the line as Scotland continued to look rattled in defence.

Scotland were dealt a hammer blow when Corsie was penalised for the slightest of touches on Sugasawa, with referee Lidya Tafesse awarding a penalty to Japan.

Having been fouled for the spot-kick, Sugasawa made no mistake from twelve yards by sending Alexander the wrong way with a low shot placed into the bottom right corner.

Erin Cuthbert produced a rare array into attacking territory as she turned on the spot to direct a fizzing shot towards the Japanese goal; however, it nestled on the roof of the net as Scotland came close to pulling a goal back just before the break.

Scotland could have found themselves three goals behind at half-time when Endo’s low cross picked out Hina Sugita, but the 22-year-old’s effort spun onto the crossbar and was hurriedly thrashed away.

Caroline Weir tested ‘keeper Yamashita’s reactions early in the second half as she shot from 20-yards, but her effort skidded up into the Japanese shot-stopper’s grasp.

Cuthbert’s defence-splitting ball allowed Lisa Evans to drive towards goal, but the Japanese defence crowded her out before she could shoot.

Nakajima almost added a third for Japan as the game crept towards the hour-mark. The right-sided winger darted towards the goal, snuck inside the box against Lauder but Alexander produced an excellent save low to the right to deny the Japanese effort.

The Tartan Army came the closest to scoring all game when Caroline Weir’s freekick picked out Cuthbert, but the 20-year-old was unable to score as her effort rebounded off the post.

Cuthbert, and the Scottish coaching staff, had loud appeals for a penalty waved away when the striker was downed inside the penalty area, but their claims were to only deaf ears with Scotland enduring a promising spell.

Evans tried her luck with a good strike from distance, but Yamashita produced a fully stretched diving save to deny the travelling Scottish contingency of supporters something to cheer about with five minutes remaining.

Substitute Lana Clelland pulled a goal back in the 88th-minute when she took advantage of Nana Ichise’s wayward pass. The 26-year-old Fiorentina forward looked up and fired past Yamashita from the edge-of-the-box.

However, Clelland’s strike proved nothing more than a consolation as Japan held on to record a 2-1 win and boost their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages.

Player of the Match – Mana Iwabuchi

With her clever footwork and excellent hold-up play, Japan’s number eight was a constant threat.

Iwabuchi’s constant pressing almost led to an opener as she forced Lisa Evans into a mistake on the edge-of-the-box before having her effort saved in a narrow-angle.

The 26-year-old forward took her chance when given the opportunity to strike towards goal and, assisted by some poor defending by Beattie, her dipping effort flew past Alexander to give Japan the lead.

While Japan were unable to make the net bulge any further during the second half, Iwabuchi continued to prove a threat as she coordinated play from a deepened attacking midfield role before being substituted in the 82nd minute.


Japan: Yamashita (GK), Shimizu, Kumagi, Ichise, Sameshima, Nakajima, Miura, Sugita, Endo (66, Kobayashi), Sugasawa, Iwabuchi (82, Hasegawa).

Unused Subs: Ikeda, Utsugi, Sakaguchi, Minami, Takarada, Momiki, Miyagawa, Yokoyama, Hirao, Miyake.

Scotland: Alexander (GK), Smith, Corsie (C), Beattie, Lauder, Little, Weir, Evans (85′ Brown), Ross (76, Clelland), Cuthbert, Arnot (60, Emslie).

Unused Subs: Lynn (GK), Fife (GK), Docherty, Love, Crighton, Arthur, Howard, C Murray, J Murray, Brown.

Goals: Japan: Mana Iwubuchi (23′), Yuika Sugasawa (37′ pen). Scotland: Lana Clelland (88′)


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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