WATCH: Socceroos' win streak ends after late Japan strike
Australia’s win streak dating back to June 2019 has ended in Japan with a 2-1 defeat to the Samurai Blue at the Saitama Stadium on Tuesday night (AEDT).
Despite a spirited fightback from the Socceroos, an early goal from Ao Tanaka and an own goal with five minutes remaining was enough to sink Australia to their first competitive loss since the Asian Cup in 2019.
In desperate need of a win and with their backs against the wall in qualifying, it was Japan who opened the scoring in the ninth minute.
The breakthrough came from Takumi Minamino’s cross from the left which deflected past Aziz Behich and into the path of Tanaka, who found himself free at the back post and made no mistake as he rifled the ball into the bottom corner.
The Socceroos looked to equalise straight away through Ajdin Hrustic, who almost caught Gonda out of position with a near-post shot from a corner routine, but the Japanese stopper was up to the task.
While the Socceroos were patient with their buildup play, Japan continued to display their eagerness to double their lead as they created several dangerous chances.
With 34 minutes played, a golden opportunity went begging for the Samurai Blue to take a two-goal lead into halftime. It was Yuya Osako who dispossessed Hrustic in the midfield and drove towards the Socceroos defence before eventually firing just wide with only Ryan to beat.
Australia’s best chance of the first half came just six minutes later as Tom Rogic found Adam Taggart free in the box, but the striker’s shot was palmed onto the post by Gonda and Aaron Mooy could not find the back of the net from the follow-up.
Japan came out firing in the opening exchanges of the second half, but the Socceroos were on the front foot through Mooy, who narrowly dragged a shot from 20 yards just wide of the post five minutes after the restart.
Moments later, Minamino was adamant that he had been brought down in the box by Irvine as a ball was fizzed across goal, but the referee and VAR were not interested in his penalty claims.
On the hour mark, Graham Arnold replaced Mooy and Taggart with Awer Mabil and Mitchell Duke as Australia went in search of an equaliser.
Five minutes later, Australia thought they had been awarded a penalty after Hrustic was brought down by Hidemasa Morita on the line of the penalty box, but after a lengthy delay, VAR overturned the referee’s decision and awarded a free-kick.
Hrustic then stepped up for the subsequent free-kick and lashed the ball over the wall and into the top corner to hand Australia a much-needed equaliser with 20 minutes remaining.
In desperate need of a win at home to re-ignite their qualification campaign, Japan pushed for the winner and they eventually found it with four minutes remaining.
Takuma Asano’s looping cross from the left deceived Ryan, bounced off the post and into Behich, who could not stop it from crossing the line.
While Australia fought to salvage a point in Saitama, it was not to be and the Socceroos 11 game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Samurai Blue.