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Hosho captures high school soccer title in shootout win over Tachibana

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Hosho of Miyazaki came through a penalty shootout to win the National High School Soccer Championship for the first time with a 5-3 victory over Kyoto Tachibana after a 2-2 draw in Saturday’s final.

Goalkeeper Takuto Asada drilled home the winning spot kick after Hosho had twice come from behind to take the game into extra time at National Stadium, giving the team its fourth overall shootout victory of the tournament.

The final was rescheduled from its original Monday date due to heavy snowfall in Tokyo, and manager Hiromi Matsuzaki was happy that his players’ hunger to win was not affected by the delay.

“We didn’t do anything differently, but it was good for the players to be able to go home and refresh themselves,” he said. “Winning four games on penalties was not something I had experienced before, but we put our kicks away with great feeling. More than technique, they put all their feeling into the penalties.”

Kyoto’s Hiroki Hayashi opened the scoring in the 41st minute before Hayato Yoshikawa equalized four minutes after the break, only for Keiya Sento to restore Kyoto’s lead with a goal midway through the second half. Hosho dug deep once more to take the match into extra time, however, with captain Daiki Yano scoring from the penalty spot with only six minutes of the 90 remaining.

“The players kept going right until the end, even when we were behind,” said Matsuzaki. “This was a very difficult game, but the players made me very proud with their bravery. They have got stronger mentally and technically with every day that has passed.”

Kyoto Tachibana was also looking for its first title in only its second tournament appearance, but manager Kazunari Yonezawa could not fault his players’ effort.

“The players gave their all, and it was thanks to them that we were able to get to the final,” he said. “The result is disappointing for us, but I’m grateful to what the players did. They gave their all.”

Hayaashi unleashed a first-time shot as the ball fell to him just inside the area in the 41st minute, and goalkeeper Tatsunari Nagai allowed it to squirm under his body for the opening goal.

Hosho’s immediate attempts to hit back were undone when Tomoya Kitamura had a goal ruled out for offside, but the Miyazaki side would not have to wait long to draw level. Yuya Kohara swung in a corner four minutes into the second half, and Yoshikawa rose highest to plant a header into the back of the net.

Kyoto hit back as Katsuya Nakano released Tomoya Koyamatsu into the box down the left-hand side, and Sento met his cross with a first-time diving volley to put the Kansai school back into the lead.

But Hosho grabbed a lifeline from the penalty spot with time running down, with captain Yano dispatching the spot kick after Kensei Hidaka had been brought down.

The goal gave Hosho new momentum heading into extra time, but neither team managed to break the deadlock. Sento missed his side’s first attempt to hand the advantage to Hosho, however, and the Miyazaki side made it count with all five spot kicks finding their target.

“I had lost my voice, so there was nothing I could really say to the players at halftime,” said Matsuzaki. “All I could really say was for them to do their best.”