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Pune, 21 January: Two-time defending champions Japan made a winning start to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022™ on Friday as Futoshi Ikeda’s side secured a statement 5-0 win over Myanmar in Group C.

Riko Ueki gave the Japanese the lead midway through the first half while strikes early in the second half from Yui Hasegawa and Hikaru Naomoto gave the champions a comfortable cushion. Substitute Yui Narumiya hit the fourth before Hasegawa sealed the win in injury time.

The Japanese showed the difference in class from the opening whistle, with Ueki threatening with an early header while Tanaka’s attempt moments later clipped the woodwork.

Japan’s fluency on the ball had Myanmar struggling to keep up and by the 22nd minute Bo Bo Aung’s side had fallen behind.

Goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita punted the ball down the right flank towards Yui Hasegawa and her cross was headed in by Ueki as she arrived unmarked and at pace on the edge of the six-yard box.

Tanaka was denied Japan’s second two minutes later when May Zin Nwe blocked her effort and later Hasegawa rattled the crossbar as the champions dominated without opening up a significant gap over the South East Asians.

Hasegawa, however, doubled the lead two minutes after the restart as Japan’s quality began to show. Hinata Miyazawa’s stab forward was deftly steered into Hasegawa’s path by Ueki and the West Ham United midfielder coolly slotted home.

The 24-year-old almost added a third soon after, only for Nwe to acrobatically tip her rising drive onto the crossbar, but there was little the goalkeeper could do in the 53rd minute when substitute Naomoto curled her free kick over the wall to score Japan’s third.

Fuka Nagano also hit the bar from distance and Nwe continued to frustrate the Japanese attack until Narumiya claimed the fourth 19 minutes from time, scoring from the edge of the area only seconds after stepping off the bench.

Hasegawa then capped a stellar performance when she instinctively clipped the ball over Nwe a minute into injury time as she came off the line.

The win puts Japan in a strong position in Group C ahead of their next game, against Vietnam on Monday, while Myanmar next face Korea Republic.

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