HANOI (AFP) - Frankfurt forward Naohiro Takahara struck twice as Japan whipped the United Arab Emirates out of Asian Cup contention Friday with a 3-1 win that kept alive their hopes of a third straight title.
Japan, with Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura also scoring, surged to the top of Group B with one win and one draw, level with co-hosts and tournament revelation Vietnam.
The result was a second defeat for the Gulf Cup champions and crushed their bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Japan coach Ivica Osim singled out Takahara, who is the current tournament top scorer with three goals, for praise.
"Because of his killer instinct, Takahara is able to play in Germany," said the Bosnian coach, who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.
But Osim was forced to substitute him after an hour on a hot and humid evening, because he complained of pain in his body.
"It may be due to fatigue and not injury. I wish he can play in the next game. If not, I will find another player," the coach said without giving further details on his condition.
Japan and Vietnam will battle it out in their last group match on Monday when a winless UAE face Asian Games gold medalists Qatar.
"We managed to play the game at our pace in this weather and won as a result," Osim said. "We passed the ball around better and made the opponents run."
UAE coach Bruno Metsu, who guided his squad to the Gulf Cup last January, said: "We lost because we were not alert."
Takahara, who scored in the 1-1 draw with Qatar on Monday, headed home a cross from Nakamura who lobbed the ball with a sliding kick from near the touchline in the 22nd minute.
Five minutes later, Takahara bagged his brace, taking a cross from Akira Kaji and volleying it through two defenders into the far corner of the net.
Nakamura gave Japan a 3-0 lead in the 42nd minute, converting a penalty after midfield partner Yasuhito Endo was bundled over by 'keeper Majeed Naser.
The UAE were reduced to 10 men in the 53rd minute after defender Basheer Saeed was sent off for a sliding tackle on Japanese defensive midfielder Keita Suzuki.
Nakamura's resulting 30-metre free kick found its way into Naser's hands.
The UAE gamely fought on and struck back on the break with a goal in the 66th minute.
Substitute striker Saeed Alkas latched on to a through pass after a nifty run down the middle of the park by Ahmed Mohamed, blasting past veteran Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.
Ismaeil Matar, the Gulf Cup most valuable player with five goals, was a livewire and kept Japan on their toes, with a 15-metre attempt going close in the 70th minute.
But Japan cleverly maintained possession as the clock ticked down and with 10 minutes to go, Endo almost made it 4-1 with a 20-metre drive which Naser collected.
It was Japan's fourth win against two losses and six draws in their head-to-head with the UAE. In their last encounter, Japan lost to the Gulf visitors 1-0 in Tokyo in 2005.
|8||Haider Alo Ali||52'|
|15||Mohamed Al Shehhi|
|Coach: B. Metsu|
for Khalid Darwish 46'
for Essa Ali 46'
for Mohamed Al Shehhi 56'
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