Reigning J. League player of the year Hisato Sato lit up the Xerox Super Cup with a spectacular goal to give league champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima a 1-0 win over Emperor’s Cup holders Kashiwa Reysol in the 2013 season curtain-raiser on Saturday.
Sato, who led the J. League with 22 goals last season as Hiroshima claimed its first-ever title, connected with a sweet left-foot volley that flew past Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno and in off the post in the 29th minute, giving Sanfrecce the trophy at the end of an otherwise uneventful game at National Stadium.
“We have been working hard at our training camp, and it was good to see it all come together today,” said Sato. “For the goal, (Hiroki) Mizumoto headed it on and I was in a good position to try the volley. We work on combinations like that in training.
“It was a beautiful goal. I don’t score many as beautiful as that.”
Sato left the field in the 60th minute nursing a dead leg, but Sanfrecce manager Hajime Moriyasu was unconcerned about his star striker ahead of next Saturday’s J. League opener at home to Urawa Reds.
“It’s nothing serious with Sato,” he said. “Yesterday he had to stand up for a long time talking to the press, so maybe he was tired from that. Winning a trophy to start the season is good for the team. I was glad to see that all the work we had been doing in camp paid off on the pitch today.
“We were able to play the way we are aiming to play this season. But this is only the start, and we are still not fully prepared. We still have work to do to improve our level.”
A quiet game exploded into life when Sato gave Sanfrecce the lead with the first clear chance of the afternoon. Toshihiro Aoyama swung in a cross from the left that deflected up off a Kashiwa defender, Mizumoto headed the ball on, and Sato met it on the volley to beat Sugeno.
Mizumoto went close to adding another with a shot over the bar five minutes later, before Kohei Shimizu also tried his luck from distance as Sanfrecce ended the first half in total control.
Jorge Wagner almost wrong-footed Hiroshima goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa as Reysol hit back after the interval, before Sato went close to converting another acrobatic volley for Sanfrecce at the other end.
Daisuke Suzuki then crashed a header against the bar from a Kashiwa free kick, but it was to be the last real chance that the cup-holders would create as Sanfrecce held firm to close out the match.
“Today’s game was a very tactical encounter,” said Reysol manager Nelsinho. “We were trying out a new system and it was only the second time we had used it. Sato’s timing was excellent for Sanfrecce’s goal, but I thought overall we defended well.
“We played much more aggressively in the second half and created a lot more chances, but it was disappointing that we weren’t able to put any of them away. That’s the way I want to see us playing. I’m satisfied with the way we approached the second half.”
Palestinians reject game
RAMALLAH WEST BANK
Palestinians won’t be teaming with Israelis in a soccer match against Barcelona designed to promote peace.
Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub met with Barcelona President Sandro Rosell on Friday and says there are “lots of obstacles.”