Manchester United was rocked twice in a friendly match at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Thursday night.
First by a stadium-rattling earthquake and then by a shock 2-1 win for Kashima Antlers before a crowd of 40,197.
The 10-second temblor shook the stadium to its foundations, which startled the small pocket of visiting United fans and the United bench.
On the pitch, it was Kashima midfielder Masashi Motoyama doing the startling, scoring two sweetly-struck goals either side of a Ryan Giggs strike in the first half.
On Monday, Real Madrid lost to J. League opposition, but Antlers coach Toninho Cerezo is sure that it isn’t a lack of determination from touring sides that is responsible for this rash of freak results.
“They (Man United) are not here just to play for the money . . . they pushed us hard,” Cerezo said. “We beat them with positioning and tactics.”
Manager Alex Ferguson kept most of the crowd pleasers on the bench in the first half and United suffered for it.
Kashima opened the scoring inside the first five minutes. Motoyama crashed in a wonderful half volley from the left side of the penalty area that flew over ‘keeper Tim Howard’s head into the opposite top corner.
It took United just three minutes to reply.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who had started brightly, jinked his way down the right wing and sent in an inviting ball across the face of goal that a grateful Giggs buried.
Antlers came straight back when Motoyama went close with a header, before an electric Ronaldo had the crowd bristling when he tore through the Kashima defense before firing into the side netting.
Rio Ferdinand was once again booed throughout the game by United fans, due to his reluctance to sign a new £100,000 a week contract.
It must have been the booing or the earthquake that distracted him on 21 minutes when his loose ball let in Takayuki Suzuki, who flashed in a shot from 20 meters that Howard clawed over the bar.
But on 24 minutes, Antlers took a deserved lead.
Motoyama started the move with a clever dummy on the right before making his way into the box to meet a delightful Mitsuo Ogasawara pass that he smashed home.
“It’s a gift for Motoyama and Ogasawara to play against Manchester,” Cerezo said. “They both did a great job.”
The second half brought a United onslaught.
Substitute Wayne Rooney fired a right-foot drive just wide before Ronaldo went close twice in the space of a minute, first from a spectacular curler with his instep and then with a header that floated just past the post.
Another United sub, new signing Park Ji Sung, had the last decent United chance. He blazed the ball over the bar from close range, though, after a cheeky back heel from Ruud van Nistelrooy had teed him up.
United’s second and final game on the Japan leg of its tour is on Saturday night against Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium 2002.
United won its previous Asian tour game 3-0 in a fiery affair against Beijing Hyundai.
Ogasawara on hold
ROME (Kyodo) Italian first-division club Lecce has all but aborted its plans to acquire Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara, the Serie A side said on Thursday.
According to the agent involved in talks with Lecce, the Italian club made an offer to acquire Ogasawara’s services this summer but the J. League side is unwilling to let the Japan international move until January of next year.
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