Saturday 21 April 2018

Red card blamed as champions Spain shocked by Japan

Kieran Canning

SPAIN manager Luis Milla believes having to chase the game with 10 men was the main reason behind his side's surprise 1-0 defeat to Japan in their opening match of the Olympic Games.

The World and European champions were already trailing to Yuki Otsu's goal when Inigo Martinez was sent-off five minutes before half-time and Milla claims the numerical disadvantage did not allow the Spaniards to play their normal possession-based game.



"Congratulations to Japan, they played a very good match but it was hard for us with a man less. Up until the goal things were relatively even but then we conceded a goal from a dead ball and were a bit unlucky to have a man sent-off.



"We then had to push forward and take risks and this is not our philosophy. It is true they created many chances but they had quick forwards who could exploit the space we were leaving because we had to attack."



Milla is convinced Spain can still recover and took solace from the fact that the Spanish senior team has failed to secure victory in either of their opening games before going on to win the last World Cup and the European Championship last month.



"Despite the result, playing in the Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we have to enjoy it," he added. "At this level we know the small details count and now we have to work on those and prepare for the next match against Honduras. We have two finals now to try and qualify for the next stage."



Japan boss Takashi Sekizuka was understandably delighted with his side's performance but tried to play down claims that they are now serious contenders for the gold medal.



He said: "This is still the first match and we still have far to go to even make the knockout round, but I look forward to playing Spain again later in the competition."



Sekizuka's tactics of pressing Spain high up the field worked well throughout and he was happy with how his players adapted to playing with a man advantage after half-time.



"In the first half our plan was to push high and pressure the centre-backs but after the red card it was more important to keep the ball, to move it and try to create space which we did well," he added.



"We don't often get the chance to play against this level of opposition so we had to make the most of it and enjoy it."



TEAMS



Spain: De Gea, Dominguez, Javi Martinez, Martinez, Jordi Alba, Montoya, Koke (Tello 81), Isco (Romeu 63), Adrian (Ander Herrera 56), Rodrigo, Mata



Subs Not Used: Marino, Azpilicueta, Muniain, Botia



Sent Off: Martinez (41)



Booked: Jordi Alba, Dominguez.



Japan: Gonda, Tokunaga, Hiroki Sakai (Gotuko Sakai 74), Yoshida, Suzuki, Ogihara (Yamamura 86), Higashi, Yamaguchi,

Kiyotake, Otsu (Saito 46), Nagai



Subs Not Used: Ando, Muramatsu, Sugimoto, Usami. Booked: Saito



Goals: Otsu 34.



Att: 41,000 Ref: Mark Geiger (USA)



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