Report: England Partially Sighted 2-2 Japan (5-4 on pens)
Para Lions secure IBSA World Championship Final spot after a sudden-death penalty shootout victory over Japan in Walsall
The Para Lions shared a closely-fought encounter at the University of Wolverhampton’s venue in Walsall, with the crowd left right on the edge of their seats until the final sudden-death kick of the game.
But Steve Daley’s team held their nerve to set up an encounter with serial champions and tournament favourites Ukraine on Tuesday evening.
They had to show their character too, having fallen behind in the opening stages somewhat against the run of play when Yukuke Takeuchi’s driven cross into the area picked out Kouki Oka in space to break the deadlock.
England were still enjoying the better of the game and equalised just before half time, as Harry MacDonald cut inside from the left an fired an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
And Harry Gibbons put the Para Lions ahead in the second half to prompt wild celebrations on the touchline with a spot in the Final within touching distance.
But with just under four minutes left on the clock, Japan pulled it back thanks to a stunning equaliser from the impressive Kei Akasaki, who caught everyone out with a direct shot at goal from the right touchline after England had conceded possession.
There were chances for both teams to win it in the dying stages, and England had another opportunity to take the lead as Adam Leone’s cross set up Liam Spinks in the area but a point-blank save from Juo Kado denied the young striker.
And after Kado had made another save to deny Gibbons, his quick throw out saw Oka run through on goal with Jack Walsh standing up to make a good stop.
Into the shootout and both teams showed nerves of steel, by scoring their first three spot-kicks before Leone was denied to put the game in Japan’s hands.
But when Kentaro Hanyu shot wide, Gibbons levelled it up at 4-4 to take the shootout to sudden death and after Shouhei Shinose saw his effort saved by Walsh, it was left to MacDonald to fire home the winning goal.
England will now take on Ukraine on Tuesday evening at 6.30pm BST.
England: 1 Jack Walsh, 4 Harry Gibbons, 6 Doug Pratt, 10 Adam Lione, 11 Liam Spinks
Substitutes: 13 Myles Chadwick, 3 Josh Pugh, 5 Harry MacDonald, 7 John McDougall, 8 Jacob Heasman
Head coach: Steve Daley
Goals: Harry MacDonald, Harry Gibbons