KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Kashiwa Reysol ended a turbulent week on a resounding high with a 4-0 Nabisco Cup semifinal first-leg win over Yokohama F. Marinos on Saturday.
Reysol went into the match at Hitachi Stadium after a chaotic seven days, with manager Nelsinho abruptly offering his resignation in the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s 3-1 J. League loss to Kashima Antlers.
But the Brazilian, who missed Wednesday night’s 4-2 Emperor’s Cup second-round win over Tsukuba University, returned to his position on Thursday after a change of heart, and was rewarded with a scintillating performance as Reysol put J. League leaders Marinos to the sword.
“I didn’t say anything special to the players before the game,” said Nelsinho, who led Kashiwa to its one and only J. League title in 2011. “We prepared for the game as normal. It was a Nabisco Cup semifinal, and the players had a responsibility to be ready for it.
“All the players want to get to the final, and that is all the motivation they needed. The players’ dedication is what won the game for us tonight.”
Two goals from Junya Tanaka and one from Jorge Wagner gave the home side a 3-0 halftime lead, before Wagner as good as guaranteed Kashiwa’s place in the final with a fourth in the 85th minute.
Kawasaki Frontale came back from two goals down to beat Urawa Reds 3-2 at home in the other semifinal, Yoshito Okubo scoring twice in the final 11 minutes.
“We’re desperate to get to the final, and the players showed that tonight,” said Reysol captain Hidekazu Otani. “What happened this week had more of an impact on the people around us rather than on the players. We go out on the pitch to win regardless of who the manager is. That never changes.”
Both sides created chances in a lively opening period, but it was Reysol who broke the deadlock in the 18th minute. Wagner made space in a congested box to slide the ball across to Tanaka, who took a touch before unleashing a bullet strike past Tetsuya Enomoto with his left foot.
After clipping the crossbar, the irrepressible Tanaka then doubled Kashiwa’s lead a minute before halftime. Again the ball fell to the 26-year-old in the box, and again he turned to blast an unstoppable left-foot drive past Enomoto.
And there was still enough time for Reysol to add another before the interval, Wagner playing a one-two with fellow Brazilian Cleo before guiding the ball into the net in first-half injury time.
Marinos striker Marquinhos headed a clear chance wide in the 73rd minute to sum up the visitors’ night, and Wagner embellished the point with a delicious curling free kick five minutes from time to round off the perfect evening for Kashiwa.
“We were at home for the first leg, and the away team will always be looking to score an away goal to take into the second leg,” said Otani. “We wanted to be in the best situation possible for the second leg, so we went out in search of goals. It was a good first half for us.”