KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. – FC Tokyo’s hopes of successfully defending their Nabisco Cup title suffered an early blow after a 3-1 loss away to Kashiwa Reysol in the first round of group stage matches Saturday.
But last year’s beaten finalists Urawa Reds picked up their first win of the season as star striker Emerson scored what proved to be the winner in the 2-1 defeat of Vissel Kobe.
The Group C clash at Kashiwa Stadium burst into life in the 18th minute when Naohiro Ishikawa drove home a cross from fellow Athens Olympian Yasuyuki Konno, only for Kashiwa to level within seconds of the restart.
South Korean striker Choi Sung Kuk floated over a free kick for Sota Nakazawa to head home and the home side then took the lead when the impressive Harutaka Ono clipped the ball past Hitoshi Shiota from close range in the 25th minute.
Brazilian striker Cleber grabbed the third with a superb long-range effort five minutes after the interval to seal a comfortable win.
Neighboring JEF United Chiba also kicked off their Group C campaign with a win thanks to late goals from substitutes Kohei Kudo and Takenori Hayashi in the 3-1 defeat of Oita Trinita.
At Kobe Wing Stadium, Nobuhisa Yamada pounced on a loose ball to put Urawa on their way in the 38th minute before Emerson fired home his first goal of the season five minutes later after Makoto Kakegawa had saved his penalty.
Former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura scored his third goal in as many games to reduce the deficit when he headed home a cross from Ryuji Bando in the 69th minute but Vissel was unable to make any further inroads. Omiya Ardija completed a good day for Saitama’s clubs with a 2-0 win over Albirex Niigata in the other Group A game.
In Group B, Kota Yoshihara and Fernandinho were both on target as Gamba Osaka beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-2 while teenage striker Takayuki Morimoto scored twice as Tokyo Verdy came from 4-0 down at halftime to hold former neighbors Kawasaki Frontale to a 4-4 draw.
In Group D, a late header from Cho Jae Jin earned Shimizu S-Pulse a point in the 1-1 draw at home to Kashima Antlers while former Japan forward Akinori Nishizawa scored late on to give Cerezo Osaka a 2-1 win at Nagoya Grampus Eight.
The group stage features 16 first-division teams playing home and away matches in four groups with the top team from each group and the two best runnersup advancing to the quarterfinals.
Yokohama F. Marinos and Jubilo Iwata have been given a bye into the quarterfinals to be played in August due to their involvement in the Asian Champions League.
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