Yokohama F Marinos got payback for their bitter defeat to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J-League title race with a 2-0 victory over the two-time defending league champions to win the Emperor’s Cup on Wednesday.
First-half goals from Manabu Saito and Yuji Nakazawa in a space of four minutes handed Marinos their first piece of silverware since they won the league in 2004.
Marinos, who beat Sanfrecce twice this season, lost out on the league championship on the final weekend to Hiroshima, who overtook Yasuhiro Higuchi’s men by one point to cap their dramatic turnaround.
“It’s nice to win the cup but winning the league would’ve been better,” Marinos captain Shunsuke Nakamura said. “We went out in the semifinals last year and the year before, so it’s nice we finally got it done.”
Before a sellout crowd in the last final at the existing National Stadium, Marinos moved in front in the 17th minute through Saito.
Yuzo Kobayashi started the sequence with a run from the right that broke down the defense, laying off to Shingo Hyodo who set up Saito on the edge of the box.
Saito hit past goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa with a drive for the bottom corner, netting his second goal of the tournament to give Marinos the advantage.
Sanfrecce nearly evened the score two minutes later when Naoki Ishihara tested the reflexes of Tetsuya Enomoto, who managed to save off the right-hand post.
Marinos doubled their lead after 21 minutes from a Nakamura corner, the former Celtic man picking out Kosuke Nakamachi for a header.
Nishikawa did well to keep out Nakamachi, but the rebound flew straight to Nakazawa who nodded into the net to give his side a two-goal cushion heading into the break.
Both teams had their share of close chances in the second half but neither could capitalize before the final whistle, which was sweet music to the ears of Marinos.