Japan won a second Olympic softball title in a row, albeit 13 years apart ©Getty Images

Japan successfully retained the Olympic softball title they last won 13 years ago by beating the United States 2-0 in today's gold-medal game.

The hosts also beat the Americans in the Beijing 2008 final - before baseball and softball were axed from the Olympic programme.

Tokyo 2020's decision to bring the sports back has provided the pay-off organisers were hoping for as the US failed to get onto the scoreboard.

The Americans used three pitchers, with Athens 2004 champion Cat Osterman, Ally Carda and Monica Abbott all featuring.

Japan went in front in the top of the fourth inning when Mana Atsumi struck towards second base, before sprinting to first and diving in safe.

Yamato Fujita, who had earlier singled off Carda, had made her way to third and got home to score.

The advantage was doubled in the top of the fifth when Abbott, a member of the Beijing 2008 silver medal-winning team, was introduced.

With Yu Yamamoto on first, Abbott pitched wildly and the Japanese player snuck to second.

Fujita then connected with a sweet hit to right field which Yamamoto utilised to get home. 

The Americans struggled offensively with Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno putting in an almost faultless display.

Japan prevented the Americans from scoring in Yokohama ©Getty Images
Japan prevented the Americans from scoring in Yokohama ©Getty Images

In the bottom of the sixth, the US had runners on the first two bases, but Amanda Chidester's line drive unluckily deflected off a Japanese player and into a glove.

Michelle Moultrie, on second, was stranded and Japan bagged two outs to end the inning.

Japan nearly added to their score when the brilliant Fujita came close to clearing the fence in the top of the seventh.

But Janie Reed pulled off a magnificent leaping catch right on the boundary wall, to keep her side in it. 

The Americans had won every match in the group phase, including a 2-1 win against Japan yesterday when both teams knew their place in the final was secure.

They could not win when it counted, however, and with the sport not part of the Paris 2024 programme it could be a long wait until softball features again.

Baseball and softball at Los Angeles 2028 does seem like a real possibility, but it is not guaranteed and this would almost certainly come too late for most of the squad which means the opportunity for gold was today.

This added extra pressure to the occasion and it was the Japanese who dealt with it best, as they won their country's 10th gold medal of Tokyo 2020.

This was enough to send the country top of the medal table, above the Americans.

"There was a pressure because this Olympics were held in my home country, but I was determined to throw until I couldn't throw anymore," said Ueno, who is now a double gold medallist as one of three survivors from Beijing alongside Yukiyo Mine and Eri Yamada.

The Americans had won all three Olympic softball titles contested before 2008.

Earlier today, Canada beat Mexico 3-2 to win the bronze medals.