Makoto Hasebe struck twice to fire Urawa Reds into the Emperor’s Cup final as Guido Buchwald’s men beat Omiya Ardija 4-2 after extra time Thursday and set up a New Year’s Day showdown with Shimizu S-Pulse.
Shimizu booked its place in the Japanese season’s final match at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Sunday courtesy of Cho Jae Jin’s 101st-minute header in the 1-0 win over Cerezo Osaka in Shizuoka.
Omiya put up a brave fight in the “Battle of Saitama” in the day’s second semifinal and forced extra time with an equalizer from Daisuke Tomita in the dying embers of normal time after Urawa had led through Hasebe’s somewhat fortuitous 62nd-minute strike.
But the 21-year-old Hasebe stole the show and celebrated his first Japan call-up by setting up captain Nobuhisa Yamada to give Urawa the lead five minutes into the extra period and then killing the game off with a wonderful solo effort at National Stadium.
“We put a lot of pressure on Omiya in the second half and made it 2-1 but missed some chances and a careless mistake allowed them to snatch an equalizer,” said Urawa’s German manager Buchwald.
“It really turned into a proper cup tie in extra time, but I think mentally we had the edge. It’s 25 years since we have won the Emperor’s Cup final (as forerunners Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). We didn’t want to play an extra 30 minutes today, but we will be looking to win the final convincingly.”
Tatsunori Hisanaga and Jun Marques Davidson both came close with half chances for Omiya early on but it was Urawa that took the lead through Croatian striker Tomislav Maric after 23 minutes.
Maric put Urawa on the way to victory over Kawasaki Frontale in the quarterfinals on Christmas Eve, and he headed the Reds into the lead in identical fashion, shrugging off marker Yosuke Kataoka to power home Robson Ponte’s corner from the left.
But the joy proved short-lived for Buchwald’s men as Kataoka made amends and silenced the red sea of fans behind Ryota Tsuzuki’s goal with a superb long-range strike.
Keita Suzuki brought down Hisanaga and the latter back-heeled the resulting free-kick for Kataoka, who gave Tsuzuki no chance with a 25-meter screamer that crashed in off the post.
Urawa, however, moved up a gear after the interval, and it only looked a matter of time before they would regain the lead.
Hasebe, called up by Japan coach Zico on Monday for next month’s friendly away to the United States, scuffed Alessandro Santos’ left-wing cross, but his first-time effort took a bounce and looped over the head of the helpless Hiroki Aratani.
Maric should have put the game out of reach when he missed the target from a promising position, and with the clock ticking down, Aratani pumped a hopeful ball into the Urawa box and Hiroshi Morita won a challenge with Tsuzuki before the ball fell to Tomita to head into an empty net.
Yamada swung the game back in Urawa’s favor with a sweetly struck effort, and Hasebe finished off a weaving run to complete the scoring in the 102nd minute.
Cerezo missed out on the J. League title in the dying seconds on the last day of the league season and Shimizu ensured its opponents would finish the year empty-handed after prevailing in the 11th minute of extra time.
Shimizu, which beat Cerezo in the 2001 Emperor’s Cup final, created countless chances at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa and was finally rewarded when South Korean Cho met Ryuzo Morioka’s cross to score the decisive goal.
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