Ichifuna made it two wins out of two in this year’s Premier Section with a fine win over Alset Columbia.
The Japanese side were a threat from the word go, with an early chance falling to Tatsuki Kurosawa but his shot sailed over the bar.
Set-piece specialist for Ichifuna Tomoya Fukumoto then swung in a corner, and in the resulting confusion the ball fell to Jiroh Hatano, but his shot was superbly blocked by Samuel Guevera in the Alset goal.
In a first half of many chances, it was the Columbians who opened the scoring against the the run of play. When a deflected free-kick came off the crossbar, Velipe Vanagas was on hand and cooly finished to give his side the lead.
Moments later it was all square when Alset failed to clear from a corner kick, and the impressive Hatano placed the ball back into the box for Shuya Yashimoto to volley home the equaliser.
It was end to end stuff now, and both Hatano and Daniel Malpica had chances to get a second for their sides, the latter hitting the woodwork.
It was that man Hatano though who was instrumental in Ichifuna taking the lead midway through the first half. He showed great composure and skill to make his way into the box, and his cool cross was met by Tatsuki Kurosawa to give the Japanese side a half-time lead.
The continuing rain seemed to limit the ambitions of both sides at the beginning of the second half, but Ichifuna eventually got their third following some poor marking from a corner. Takito Hirakawa rose above everyone and his strong header couldn’t be stopped.
Ichifuna’s fourth came from a fine team move culminating in a confident backheel from Shiroto to Hatano who struck his shot sweetly into the top corner.
Substitute Yuto Fujiot then put further gloss on the result with a mazy run from the middle of the park, beating several defenders before shooting past the keeper to make it a final score of Ichifuna 5-1 Alset Columbia.
The strong Japanese outfit will be looking to take their place in the semi-finals with a win tomorrow, but County Armagh will be standing in their path (3.30pm, Scroggy Road Limavady). Alset Columbia will be hoping for better fortune in their final group fixture against Lusaka Academy (Ballymoney, 3.30pm).