Dubai: Japan and Spain got off to winning starts on the opening day of the Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup that commenced at Jumeirah’s Kite Beach on Tuesday.
Japan fought back from a two-goal deficit to tame Italy 6-4, while the hosts gave up a winning situation against Spain to lose out 2-1 in the penalty shoot-out after being tied 2-2 after extra-time.
In a tightly contested opening encounter, Spain took the lead with just 26.4 seconds left of the opening period when Salvador Manuel Ardil’s free-kick found the roof of the UAE net.
The hosts hung in and came close to scoring, but for some errant shooting particularly from Waleed Beshr, who had at least four clear chances going off-target. They finally managed an equaliser midway through the second session when Abbas Ali’s free-kick dipped low giving Pablo Lopez Molina no chance.
The UAE surged ahead with just under six minutes remaining in the final period when Ahmad Bishr knocked in from a narrow angle. But their joy was short-lived as skipper Javier Torres Molina pounced on a deflection to poke home an equaliser and push the match into three minutes of extra-time.
The UAE had at least two clear chances to take the encounter, but Ali Mohammad and Ahmad Beshr missed their free-kicks from a scoring distance.
In the shoot-out, Eduard Suarez Molina and Llorenc Gomez Leon scored after Ardil had placed wide, while Abbas Ali was the lone scorer after Pablo Molina had denied both Hesham Muntasir and Waleed Beshr.
“We take the one point and hope we can win the next two matches [against Italy and Japan],” UAE coach Mohammad Al Maazmi said.
“We had our chances and we should have converted all those during regulation period. But there is a lesson here and we need to improve,” he added.
Earlier, Takaaki Oba and Masanori Okuyama scored a brace each as Asian champions Japan opened their campaign with a 6-4 win over Italy.
Italy were quick to take the lead when Gabriele Gori’s free kick gave Japanese goalkeeper Yusuke Kawai no chance. Emmanuele Zurlo doubled the lead with 33.4 seconds left in the first period only to see Japan pull one back immediately on resumption start through Masanori Okuyama’s kick.
The second period was closer and produced just one goal as Takaaki Oba was on hand to poke home an equaliser with four minutes left. The third period was keenly fought with Oba giving the Asian champions the lead for the first time within four seconds of the third period, while substitute Takuya Akaguma turned in and Teruki Tabata poked home to make it 5-2.
But the Italians came right back with Gori getting his second of the match, while Dario Ramacciotti came off the bench to make it 4-6. However, that was the furthest they could get as Japan held out.
Japan 6 Italy 4
Spain 2 UAE 2
(Spain won 2-1 on penalties)