Funabashi, Yokkaichi reach final

Kyodo

Four-time winner Ichiritsu Funabashi of Chiba will face Mie’s Yokkaichi Chuo Kogyo in the National High School Soccer Championship final after a 2-1 victory over Oita on Saturday.

Led by a second-half brace from Takuma Asano, Yokkaichi thrashed Shoshi, the sentimental favorites from Fukushima, 6-1 in the other semifinal to reach Monday’s final for the first time since it won the competition two decades ago.

At National Stadium, Kento Watanabe pushed Funabashi in front with a curling free kick midway through the first half before captain Ryuji Izumi made it 2-0 on the other side of halftime.

Oita cut into Funabashi’s lead with 10 minutes to go through a Shun Seike header, but the Chiba heavyweights held on to advance to their first final in seven years.

“We prepared thoroughly for this game knowing how tough of a side Oita are,” Funabashi coach Ryuzo Asaoka said. “I don’t know if the tough schedule caught up to them, but their work rate tailed off dramatically. I think they ran about half as much as they have in their previous matches.

“I’m proud of my boys for the way they adjusted throughout the game.”