DOHA (Agencies) - Japan are the Asian champions for a record breaking fourth time, taking the crown in a thrilling battle over a gallant Australia with a brilliant extra time strike from substitute Tadanari Lee who volleyed home a cross from Yuto Ngatomo in the 109th minute of a scintillating Asian Cup final. Lee, who had only been on the pitch a few minutes, found himself unmarked and with the sort of time and space he could only have dreamed of to measure a perfect textbook volley that gave Mark Schwarzer, playing a record-setting 88th time for Australia, no chance. This was a game that neither side deserved to lose, but, as the nerve-shredding prospect of a penalty shoot-out loomed, it was fitting that a game of this calibre and status was decided in open play, however heartbreaking for the losers. The Socceroos can, however, hold their heads up high. They dominated much of the game, playing football of fluency, craft and sophistication that many did not think them capable of, especially in the first half. But full credit has to go to Japan, who had come through a torrid semi final with South Korea just four days earlier, a match that had been decided in a penalty shoot-out. As revenge for that day of Australian jubiliation in Kaiserslautern five years ago, when the Socceroos came back from canvas to destroy the Blue Samurais World Cup dreams with a 3-1 win, this was as good as it gets. This was a final for the ages, a tense, fascinating, fast and frenetic encounter that epitomised not just what is best in the Asian game, but in football itself. Both sides played with pace and power, guile and craft, determination and flair and it was a great denoument, by far the best match of the tournament. Australia came out of the blocks in breakneck fashion, determined, if they could, to get the same sort of start which put Uzbekistan out of the semi final almost before that match really got going four days earlier. Harry Kewell signalled Australias aggressive mindset in the very first minute with an optimistic long range drive that gave Eiji Kawashima, the Japanese goalkeeper, the chance to get an easy early touch of the ball. Matt McKay, the revalation of the Socceroo squad in this tournament, had a good chance to make an early breakthrough just one minute later when he got on the end of a lovely move begun by Brett Holmans back heel pass to Carl Valeri, who fed the ball through to the Brisbane midfielder. But finishing has never been the strong point of McKays game, and he fired wide. But the tone had been set, and Keisuke Hondas header from Yasuhito Endos cross was merely an interruption in an opening half hour when Australia had by far the best of the game and played some attractive football, with neat combinations.