KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – A late penalty from Brazilian striker Cleo put holders Kashiwa Reysol into Sunday’s draw for the fourth round of the Emperor’s Cup with a 1-0 win over second-division Fagiano Okayama on Wednesday night.
Referee Nobutsugu Murakami pointed to the spot after Keita Goto handled Masato Kudo’s header, and Cleo squeezed his spot kick just inside the left-hand post to keep alive the Nabisco Cup finalists hopes of a return to next year’s Asian Champions League.
Kashiwa will meet Urawa Reds in the final of the Nabisco Cup after a 4-2 aggregate win over Yokohama F. Marinos at the weekend, but boss Nelsinho insisted a place in the ACL remains his chief objective.
“Without doubt the ACL is the biggest goal for us right now,” said Nelsinho, who got Kashiwa to the ACL semis after winning last season’s Emperor’s Cup.
“We got to the ACL after winning this cup last year and have got stronger from the experience. Winning the Emperor’s Cup (again) would be a big deal for the team and me personally.”
Added striker Kudo, “The boss is absolutely right, all the players want to play in the ACL for the third year in a row. We want it more than anyone else and the only way we can get there is by winning the Emperor’s Cup. We have to show that in each and every match in this tournament.”
In front of less than 3,000 fans at Hitachi Stadium, Kashiwa dominated the opening period but was allowed little space in which to operate in the final third by a Fagiano side currently on the fringe of the playoffs at eighth place in J2.
Fagiano goalkeeper Hirotsugu Nakabayashi saved bravely at the feet of Wataru Hashimoto after 11 minutes, and Ryoichi Kurisawa tried his luck from distance before Cleo headed off target following some neat approach play.
Junya Tanaka had a shot punched away by Nakabayashi midway through the second half and Cleo headed just wide again before Fagiano’s resistance was finally broken a minute from time.
“It was disappointing to concede the way we did at the end but my players played with a lot of heart,” said Okayama coach Masanaga Kageyama.
In other third-round matches, Urawa was dumped out by second-division Montedio Yamagata, Romero Frank winning it for Montedio 11 minutes from time at Komaba Stadium, and Renato sealed a 3-0 win for Kawasaki Frontale over former neighbors Tokyo Verdy.
Marinos also bounced back from their Nabisco Cup heartbreak, Marquinhos grabbing a hat trick in a 3-1 win over Tochigi.