Kashima Antlers came through a tense war of attrition to beat Urawa Reds 1-0 after extra time and win the Nabisco Cup for a record fourth time on Saturday.
Urawa lost playmaker Naoki Yamada to a red card after two bookings in the space of three minutes early in the second half at National Stadium, but Kashima still could not break the deadlock and had Takeshi Aoki dismissed in the 80th minute for his second caution of the game.
But with both sides down to 10 men and the first period of extra time drawing to a close, Yuya Osako pounced on a cross from Shinzo Koroki to score the decisive goal, giving Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira the only domestic trophy that had eluded him in his five years in charge of the Ibaraki club.
“A lot of things have happened this year, and we haven’t been able to get the results we would have liked,” said Oliveira, whose team lies sixth in the J. League, 17 points off the title pace with four games remaining. “But we have kept playing the kind of football we want to play and we have kept our concentration up. This win today is a significant achievement.”
Urawa manager Takafumi Hori was leading out his team for only the second time after succeeding Zeljko Petrovic last week, and the 44-year-old paid tribute to his fired predecessor before turning his attention toward the club’s ongoing battle to avoid relegation from the J. League first division.
“Petrovic and the players got us here and I only took over for the final, so I’m sorry we couldn’t go all the way and win it,” said Hori, whose team is only two points above the J1 drop zone. “It was a difficult game and the players did well, but we have very important games left to play and we have to put this behind us and get ready for them.”
A cagey opening 45 minutes produced few chances, with Urawa goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato making a nervous parry from Takuya Nozawa before Tsukasa Umesaki had a shot deflected over the bar at the other end.
But the second half would become a different proposition after three minutes of madness from Yamada reduced Urawa to 10 men just five minutes after the break. First the 21-year-old was cautioned for a rash challenge on Toru Araiba, then a wild lunge on Aoki sealed his fate as referee Minoru Tojo had no hesitation in brandishing red.
Antlers immediately tried to capitalize with a barrage of attacks, with Nozawa hitting the side-netting with a trademark free kick before Osako headed wide in the 70th minute.
But with Reds tentatively beginning to come out of their defensive shell, Aoki joined Yamada in an early exit. Genki Haraguchi set off on a charging run down the left wing, and Aoki barged the winger off the ball to collect his second booking of the game.
The stalemate continued into extra time with both teams down to 10 men, but Antlers finally drew first blood with the winning goal in the last minute of the first 15-minute period. Yuzo Tashiro moved the ball out to Koroki on the left, and the striker slid it low across the face of the goal for man-of-the-match Osako to bury at the back post.
Gaku Shibasaki and Koji Nakata both hit the bar as Kashima tried to kill the game off in the second period, but in the end one goal was enough as Antlers came through extra time victorious as they had done in both the quarter and semifinals.
“We had a hard road to the final playing extra time in the quarterfinal against Yokohama F. Marinos and semifinal against Nagoya Grampus, but I thought we controlled the game better today,” said Oliveira, who won his sixth trophy as Antlers manager.
“We have proved in the Nabisco Cup this season that we can win over 120 minutes. We have drawn a lot of games in the J. League after 90 minutes, so maybe we should ask if we can play all our games over 120.”
Inui fires Bochum to win
Midfielder Takashi Inui scored his third goal of the season to fire Bochum to a 1-0 win at home to Alemannia Aachen in the German second division on Friday.
Inui collected a pass from the right and smashed in a 20-meter drive six minutes before halftime, and Bochum held on for victory after Aimen Demai missed a penalty for Aachen in the dying seconds.
“I was lucky. It just happened to go in,” said Inui, who had missed a great chance in a one-on-one with Aachen goalkeeper Boy Waterman just before his goal.
“I really should have put that chance away but I’m glad I scored with the next one,” said the 23-year-old.