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Sanfrecce open with win

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Teenage strikers Gakuto Notsuda and Takuma Asano put Yokohama F. Marinos to the sword as Sanfrecce Hiroshima opened the new soccer season with a 2-0 victory in the Xerox Super Cup on Saturday.

Notsuda got the two-time defending J. League champions off the mark in the sixth minute before substitute Asano doubled the lead in the second half, giving Sanfrecce a measure of revenge after losing last season’s Emperor’s Cup final to the same opponent.

Sanfrecce begin their quest for a hat trick of league titles when they take on Cerezo Osaka in next Saturday’s J. League opener, but manager Hajime Moriyasu is looking for further improvements before the campaign begins for real.

“The Xerox Super Cup is a title that we wanted to win, and we are glad that we were able to do it,” said Moriyasu. “We have been training hard and I’m pleased that came out in today’s game. But we’re not perfect yet. We still have room to improve.”

Marinos threw away a four-point lead over their nearest rivals with two games remaining to lose last season’s J. League title race, and manager Yasuhiro Higuchi was disappointed to miss out on more silverware in the last Xerox Super Cup to be played at National Stadium before it is demolished and rebuilt for the 2020 Olympics.

“The result was an accurate reflection of what happened in the game,” said Higuchi. “Both teams have had four weeks to prepare for the start of the season, but I thought we looked a little off the pace today. We still have some physical training work to do before the season starts.

“We got into trouble in the first 20 minutes and it was difficult from there. But the season has just started so there is no need to worry, and I thought our new players did well.”

Naoki Ishihara almost stunned Marinos with a shot over the bar with just seconds on the clock, but the 29-year-old would return to haunt the Yokohama defense minutes later. Ishihara played a low cross into the box that striker Hisato Sato missed completely, but teammate Notsuda was lurking behind him to bundle the ball over the line.

Jungo Fujimoto missed a glorious chance to equalize on his Marinos debut in the 19th minute, shanking Manabu Saito’s cross wide of the post with the goal at his mercy.

Yokohama goalkeeper Tetsuya Enomoto then denied Sato from point-blank range as the second half got under way, but there was nothing he could do to stop Asano in the 66th minute. Notsuda played a brilliant through-ball that found Asano darting into the Marinos box, and the 19-year-old substitute clipped the ball first time past Enomoto before sprinting to celebrate with the Sanfrecce supporters.

“We lost twice to Marinos in the league last season and again in the Emperor’s Cup final, so were looking for revenge today,” said Ishihara. “I’m glad that the supporters were able to enjoy it.

“I think we should have scored more goals at the end. We’ve got the J. League and the Asian Champions League about to start, so this was an important win for us.”