SAITAMA — Urawa Reds striker Emerson came off the bench in the second half to strike the winner as the J. East team edged the J. West team 2-1 in the J. League All-Star Match on Saturday night at Saitama Stadium 2002.

News photoMasashi Nakayama (left) of J. West and Harutaka Ono of J. East compete for the ball as Naohiro Takahara looks on during Saturday’s J. League All-Star Match at Saitama Stadium 2002. J. East won 2-1.

Emerson was named the MVP in his first appearance in the annual event. Vissel Kobe striker Kazu Miura, who scored late in the second half for the J. West team, won the Fighting Spirit prize. East defender Eisuke Nakanishi of JEF United Ichihara was honored as the most impressive player.

“I felt honored to have been selected for the game and to play with so many great players. But to score a goal for our team and to be named named MVP has made me feel even happier,” Emerson said.

In addition to the 1 million yen MVP prize the Brazilian also collected a Peugeot car, though he will have to wait a while to make use of it. “I’ve got to get a driving license first,” he said.

Three minutes into the game, Consadole striker Takafumi Ogura reacted well to an Atsushi Yanagisawa rebound to fire home the opener from close range for the East.

But the West, featuring a number of Japanese internationals, in addition to South Korea international Park Ji Sung, soon launched a series of attacks to keep its opponent in check for the rest of the half, with the Jubilo striking duo of Naohiro Takahara and Masashi Nakayama to the fore.

However, the game changed with a number of substitutions at halftime.

Emerson and fellow Brazilian Edmundo from Tokyo Verdy were introduced, adding quality to the East attack.

In the 61st minute, Emerson showed off his speed in collecting a loose ball and beating advancing Gamba ‘keeper Ryuta Tsuzuki and F. Marinos defender Yasuhiro Hato, before slotting home an easy goal.

The West rallied hard and finally replied when Kazu headed home a fine cross from Daisuke Ichikawa in the 79th minute for his fourth All-Star goal in his sixth appearance.

Park came close to scoring an equalizer five minutes later but was denied by a fine save by Reysol ‘keeper Yoichi Doi.

Kazu said, “It’s been fun to train and play together with such good players and it was a great feeling to be at the stadium in front of a big crowd. I enjoyed it.”

Toda blames Troussier

Japan and Shimizu S-Pulse midfielder Kazuyuki Toda has blamed the tactics of former Japan coach Philippe Troussier for the cohost’s second-round exit at this summer’s World Cup finals.

Toda, who played a key role in helping Japan reach the last 16 of the finals in Japan and South Korea, said Troussier’s decision to change a successful formula surprised the team that was knocked out of the tournament after going down 1-0 to Turkey in Miyagi.

“As a player it’s always difficult to comment on the manager’s tactics. But we were all a bit surprised when he changed what appeared to be a successful formula,” Toda told Kyodo News.

Troussier surprised many when he dropped Kashima Antlers livewire Atsushi Yanagisawa after the first stage for Akinori Nishizawa, who had just recovered from appendicitis and looked lethargic throughout the match in Miyagi.

Critics have also questioned the halftime substitutions the Frenchman made to replace Alessandro Santos, who was effective on the left as well as at set-pieces in the first half, and Junichi Inamoto, who scored goals against Belgium and Russia.

“As a player, I can’t say that it is completely the boss’ fault. I just think that things would have gone more smoothly if Mr. Troussier had stuck with the team that had got us in the second round,” said Toda.

“I don’t know the reason why he made those changes. Maybe Yanagi was tired. I don’t know and you can’t take anything away from Nishizawa because he went out and played the best he could.

“We lost in the end and it is over. It just seems a shame that we had to lose that game knowing that things could have been different if we had stuck with the starting lineup that took us that far.”

Toda also spoke of his hopes of rubbing shoulders with “rival” Roy Keane and becoming the latest Japanese import to try and make his mark in the English Premier League.

Toda, who models himself on controversial Manchester United star Keane, says he would “leave tomorrow” if he had the chance to play in England.

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