DOHA // Japan won the Asian Cup for a record fourth time when substitute striker Tadanari Lee struck in extra time for a 1-0 victory over Australia on Saturday.
Lee slammed home a left-foot volley in the 109th when he was left completely unmarked 10 metres from Australia's goal. Lee had all the time in the world to perfectly time his volley from a cross by defender Yuto Nagatoma and fire it past Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Lee then ran to the centre circle and fired a symbolic arrow into the night sky over the Khalifa stadium as a row of small fireworks exploded across the structure arch to celebrate the goal.
Australia was in its first final since switching from Oceania to Asia in 2006 and also lost to Japan in the quarter-finals on penalties four years ago. It will now have the chance to go for the title when it hosts the tournament in 2015.
Both teams had their chances in regulation time but the Socceroos could have clinched it in the first extra period.
Harry Kewell pushed the ball to substitute Brett Emerton in the 102nd, but he drove his left-footed shot wide to waste the best chance any team had in extra time until Robbie Kruse's header was dug out by Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima in the 104th.
Matt McKay had another effort sail high late in the first period of extra time.
The defeat meant no major trophy for Kewell and Tim Cahill, Australia's best known stars, who were both substituted and saw Japan's triumph from the bench.
Japan allowed Australia more chances in the first half, but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni's team had better opportunities when it started applying more pressure midway through the second half.