YOKOHAMA – Urawa Reds will face Kashiwa Reysol in the Nabisco Cup final after defeating Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 in the second leg of the semifinals on Saturday.
After a 3-3 aggregate, Reds reached the Nov. 2 showdown at Tokyo’s National Stadium on away goals thanks to Shinzo Koroki’s second-half winner.
In the day’s first league cup semifinal, Kashiwa went through 4-2 over the two legs against Yokohama F. Marinos, despite a 2-0 away defeat on the afternoon.
The 2003 champion Reds will appear in their fifth final, the first since 2011. Kashiwa advanced to the fall classic for the first time in 14 years, when they won the title in their only other trip to the final.
“I was sure we’d create plenty of opportunities so it was just a matter of taking them,” Koroki said. “We never fell back during the last 10 minutes and just kept attacking.”
“We’ve come this far, we’ve got to win it now.”
Frontale were not only overwhelmed by Reds, being outshot 18-6, they lost playmaker Kengo Nakamura to a back injury halfway through the match.
“When you give away possession as much as we did today, it’s going to be tough,” Kawasaki manager Yahiro Kazama said. “We basically defended the entire time today.”
“We’ve got to be more confident when we’re on the ball.”
Kawasaki — which had beaten Urawa twice this year — was flat in the opening half and had it not been for the superb reflexes of its goalkeeper Rikihiro Sugiyama, the visitors would have been staring at a halftime deficit.
The first to test him was Reds’ Japan defender Tomoaki Makino, who, in the 29th minute, let loose a free kick from 25 meters out that Sugiyama just managed to parry away.
Sugiyama was even more impressive in the last minute of the half, when he kept out a Koroki header from point-blank range after the cross by Yosuke Kashiwagi, as the teams headed for the tunnel at a deadlock.
Kazama was forced to bench his best player, Nakamura, at the break for Kentaro Moriya.
Urawa continued to see most of the time on the ball during the second half, but Kawasaki remained tight at the back, trying to wind down the clock.
Yet with 10 minutes left, the hosts were finally rewarded for their efforts when substitute Kunimitsu Sekiguchi penetrated the left wing to cross for Koroki, who tucked the deciding goal inside the near post.
A win over Kashiwa next month would give Urawa its first piece of silverware under Mihailo Petrovic, who has been re-signed for next season.
“I’m very happy with this result,” Petrovic said. “I thought we were in control for the entire 90 minutes, and I’m very proud of my players for producing such a fantastic performance. It feels great to be going to the final.”
Earlier at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama, Reysol were made to sweat as Marinos reduced the arrears with two first-half goals from Marquinhos and Yuhei Sato, dominating for long stretches of the match.
Marquinhos had given Yokohama a glimmer of hope with the opener on 32 minutes, and Sato made it 2-0 when he stabbed home Shingo Hyodo’s through pass at the near post in the third minute of injury time.
Should Kashiwa beat Urawa, they will have swept every domestic title available since Nelsinho arrived at the club in 2009.
“Ideally, we would have liked to get to the final with a win but we made the most of our advantage and got the job done over two legs,” said captain Hidekazu Otani, who will be suspended for the final.
“The team making the final is the most important thing, and I’m glad we were able to achieve that. I think the players will go out and get the title.”