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Sanfrecce beat Antlers in controversy-marred match

by Andrew Mckirdy

A hugely controversial performance from referee Masaaki Iemoto overshadowed an unlikely penalty-shootout win for second-division Sanfrecce Hiroshima over J. League champion Kashima Antlers in the Xerox Super Cup on Saturday.

Iemoto ordered two missed Sanfrecce spot-kicks to be retaken following a 2-2 draw in regulation time, sparking a pitch invasion from the Kashima fans.

Antlers’ Go Oiwa was sent off amid angry scenes after the final whistle, adding to the first-half red cards shown to Kashima’s Daiki Iwamasa and Sanfrecce’s Ri Han Jae.

Iemoto also ordered Hiroshima’s Tatsuhiko Kubo to retake his second-half penalty, doled out seven more yellow cards and disallowed two goals for Kashima’s Yuzo Tashiro

A visibly fuming Antlers coach Oswaldo Oliveira tried hard to bite his tongue after the match, but made his feelings plain.

“Every manager tries not to make comments about the referee, and the JFA tells us not to, but today unfortunately I have to comment,” he said. “Having seen what happened on the pitch today, I have to say that I think the outlook is very grim for this year. You all saw it. It was clear from start to finish and I don’t have to say anything more.”

Whether he was referring to a perceived anti-Kashima bias, or the standard of J. League officiating in general, Oliveira called for the media to address the events of the match.

“The most regrettable thing is that when this sort of match happens, Japanese sports programs don’t show anything,” he said. “These matters have to be discussed, or you lose that third-party element.”

Antlers destroyed Sanfrecce with a five-minute onslaught shortly after a drab first half, with well-taken goals from Masashi Motoyama and Takuya Nozawa looking to have ended Hiroshima’s challenge.

But the appearance of substitute Kubo jolted Sanfrecce into life, and the former Japan international pulled one back from the penalty spot before striker Hisato Sato grabbed a late equalizer.

Sanfrecce coach Mihailo Petrovic was happy with the way his players fought their way back into the match.

“Antlers took advantage of our loose marking to go ahead in the second half,” he said, “but after that we took risks and got forward.

“I could feel that the team was determined to get a goal back, and the fact that we did get back to 2-2 showed that the risks paid off.”

Staring down the barrel of a long season in J2, Petrovic was glad for a winning start to 2008.

“Last season we were relegated, and that was psychologically a heavy burden for us,” he said. “So today was just the medicine we needed. It is the first title in the club’s history, so we want to enjoy it.”

Antlers got the match off to a calamitous start, with Iwamasa receiving his marching orders for kicking the ball out of goalkeeper Koichi Kidera’s hands after just 12 minutes, moments after chopping Sato down in a harmless position.

Another intervention from the referee 25 minutes later changed the outlook of the game again, as Ri joined Iwamasa in an early bath following his second booking in quick succession.

Five minutes into the second half, Motoyama added a touch of class to a dismal game to break the deadlock.

The 28-year-old scooped up a punched clearance from Kidera on the edge of the box, before buying himself some time with a superb dummy and curling the ball into the net to give Kashima the lead.

The goal was the catalyst for Antlers to give a burst of their championship class.

First Tashiro finished off a flowing move only to be flagged offside for a second time, before Nozawa turned and crashed the ball home to double Kashima’s advantage.

Sanfrecce substitute Kubo came off the bench as Hiroshima tried to stem the tide, and the veteran pulled one back from the penalty spot on 80 minutes, slotting the ball home for a second time after Iemoto blew the whistle for infringement.

With time ebbing away, Sanfrecce kept up the chase and got its reward on 85 minutes when Sato popped up at the back post to head in the equalizer.