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Kyoto Purple Sanga captured the Emperor’s Cup for the first time after beating the Kashima Antlers 2-1 with a second-half rally on Wednesday at National Stadium in Tokyo.

News photoTeruaki Kurobe of Purple Sanga celebrates after scoring the winning goal in Kyoto’s 2-1 win over the
Kashima Antlers in the final of the Emperor’s Cup at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

PSV Eindhoven-bound, South Korea midfielder Park Ji Soon scored an equalizer in the 51st minute in his final game with Kyoto, and up-and-coming striker Teruaki Kurobe struck the winning goal in the 81st minute for Kyoto.

“It’s the Cup of Japanese soccer and I’m pleased that we can see our club’s name, Kyoto Purple Sanga, on it. We’ve shown how much we’ve grown up this season by winning this title,” said Kurobe, who received the Emperor’s Cup from Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi after the game.

It was just reward for Kyoto’s hard work throughout the season. Purple Sanga, who had returned from J2 this season, finished fifth in the regular J1 season before winning the annual tournament.

But Kyoto struggled in the first half, going behind after just 15 minutes. Kashima forward Atsushi Yanagisawa latched on to a fine through ball from midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara and skillfully chipped the ball over advancing Kyoto goalkeeper Naoto Hirai. Yanagisawa’s shot hit the bar but his Brazilian partner Euller came in to head the opener into the empty goal.

With Kashima, the two-time Emperor’s Cup winner and four-time J. League champion, dominating the midfield, the young Kyoto side appeared to have no chance of getting back into the game.

“For a team like ours who have no experience in playing in a final, falling 1-0 behind was difficult,” Kyoto coach Gert Engels said. “But we didn’t want to let it end like that and I told our players to ‘surprise our opponents and keep the pressure on them.’ “

From the outset of the second half, the Kyoto players played aggressively and got a crucial free-kick after midfielder Shinya Tomita was tripped by Kashima defender Jun Uchida on the right flank. Shingo Suzuki sent in a cross for Park, who beat Kashima defender Fabiano and Yanagisawa in the area to head home the equalizer. Park’s goal lifted his teammates while the Antlers started losing their momentum.

The winner came when Kyoto’s talented midfielder Daisuke Matsui took advantage of a Yanagisawa mispass and quickly stole the loose ball to send a long pass to Kurobe. Kurobe beat his marker Yutaka Akita on the left and passed to Suzuki up front. Kashima midfielder Augusto cut out the return ball but his short clearance found the left foot of Kurobe who calmly slotted home.

The pressure took its toll and Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata received his marching orders in the 86th minute after bringing down Kurobe just outside the box.

“I’m glad we could win the Cup before I leave for Eindhoven,” said Park. “The goal reminded me of the World Cup. But I’m more happy with our team’s win than my goal.”

“Sanga had momentum in the second half. Once we gave up the equalizer, we couldn’t do much. Our players had been tired mentally and physically and couldn’t hold onto the end. I wish we had scored another goal in the first half,” said Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo.

Kyoto will play in the Xerox Super Cup, the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season, against J. League champion Jubilo Iwata on March 1 at the same venue.

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