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Japan and Iran start on winning note

© Reuters 2002

PUSAN, South Korea, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Second-half goals from substitute Tatsuya Tanaka and Yuichi Nemoto gave unconvincing Japan a 2-0 victory over Palestine in their group D opener at the Asian Games on Saturday.

Meanwhile, striker Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht scored five as Iran crushed Afghanistan 10-0 to spoil their return to the Asian Games football competition after a 48-year absence at Gudeok Stadium in Pusan.

Japan's Tanaka broke the deadlock in the 67th minute with a superb right-foot shot from 20 metres moments after midfielder Yoshito Okubo had missed a penalty at Yangsan Stadium.

Japan secured a two-goal cushion 10 minutes before the end as Naohiro Ishikawa broke free down the left and, when his attempted cross was blocked by Palestine goalkeeper Yousf Parpkh, Nemoto was there to stroke the ball into the empty goal.

Japan, who have sent their under-21 team to South Korea, made little headway in the first half, striker Satoshi Nakayama coming closest in the 26th minute with a snap-shot from a tight angle that was well smothered by Parpkh.

The FIFA World Cup" co-hosts have never won the Asian Games, which has been switched to an under-23 format this year to bring it in line with the Olympics.

"I wanted to try a few different things today and we got the three points we wanted. We are basically here to get experience for Athens, so I have to be happy with the result." said Japan coach Masakuni Yamamoto.

In the other group D match, Bahrain ran out surprising 3-0 winners over Uzbekistan at Changwon Stadium.

Defending Asian Games champions Iran scored seven second-half goals with former Hertha Berlin striker Ali Daei coming off the bench in the 66th minute to score the final two in a one-sided group E opener.

The Games open officially on Sunday.

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