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Frontale into Nabisco final

by James Mulligan

KAWASAKI — Kawasaki Frontale advanced to the Nabisco Cup final with a 4-2 victory over local rivals Yokohama F. Marinos at Todoroki Stadium on Saturday.

News photoFrontale’s Kengo Nakamura (14) beats Yokohama’s Koji Yamase to clear the ball during their Nabisco Cup
semifinal, second-leg match at Todoroki Stadium on Saturday. Kawasaki defeated F. Marinos 4-2.
KYODO PHOTO

Hiroki Ito, Chong Tese and Juninho, who scored both goals in the 2-1 victory in the first leg, found the net for Frontale in a riotous first half that also contained both Yokohama goals and Masaru Kurotsu added a late fourth as Kawasaki moved to the Nov. 3 meeting against Gamba Osaka.

Kashima Antlers beat Gamba Osaka 3-2 at Kashima Stadium in the other semifinal, but Gamba went through on the away-goals rule after winning the first leg 1-0.

The promise of the short trip to Tokyo’s National Stadium for the final is welcome relief to Frontale after a season that can hardly be put down as a rip-roaring success.

Their Asian Champions League campaign spluttered to a halt against Iran’s Sepahan in the quarterfinals and Takashi Sekizuka’s men sit 24 points behind leaders Urawa Reds in a league title race they were expected to contest.

The Emperor’s Cup is still to come, but Sekizuka is desperate to claim the Nabisco gong and the ¥100 million winner’s check that goes with it.

For now, he can take comfort that a wretched run of form — two losses and two draws in the four games before the first leg — has been put to bed.

“We got through the games we had to play (in the quarterfinals) in July without our internationals and we have got all the way to the final because we have battled so hard as a unit,” said Sekizuka.

“Whoever we play in the final is bound to be a strong opponent and it is too early to say anything about the final. We still have games in the league but we are in the final now and I just hope we can play our brand of soccer at National Stadium,” he added.

There’s nothing similar to look forward to for Marinos coach Hiroshi Hayano. His charges have now lost their last five games in league and cup, and the woefulness of Yokohama’s early season form is back with a vengeance.

But it started so promisingly for the visitors in a first half played out in pell-mell fashion.

Less than 10 minutes were on the clock when Marinos went ahead, Norihisa Shimizu whipping in a cross from the right that Hideo Oshima met with a brilliant left-foot finish.

The pick of the first-half bunch came on 21 minutes to pull Kawasaki level on the day, fullback Ito lashing in a formidable right-foot drive from 25 meters.

Three minutes later, the tie was pretty much a done deal. Frontale’s Satoshi Kukino surged forward, rolled the ball back to Kengo Nakamura, whose crisp pass found Chong and the North Korean controlled and finished in one fluid movement.

Chong turned creator for Frontale’s third, breaking the offside trap on the left, cutting inside and crossing to the far post, where Juninho, top scorer in the J. League with 17 goals, finished with a close-range volley.