Shintaro Chiba scored a late winner as Morioka Shogyo beat Sakuyo 2-1 in the 85th All-Japan High School final at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Monday.
Chiba side-footed home on 86 minutes for the Iwate Prefecture team after an excellent run by Daiki Narita on the left stretched the Sakuyo defense, the forward cutting the ball back into the path of the midfielder, who kept his composure in front of goal.
“For those who rooted for us, I wanted to win this one by any means,” said the excited Chiba.
It was the school’s first tournament victory in a final contested between two first-timers who had outlasted some of the nation’s more traditionally powerful soccer establishments.
“Having arrived where we’ve wanted to come, I’m extremely happy,” Morioka Shogyo coach Shigenobu Saito said. “Sakuyo’s got techniques and our trait is to play hard. We just wanted to play as hard and play our usual game here.”
Okayama Prefecture’s Sakuyo had gone ahead on 57 minutes when Go Kuwamoto strode forward and laid the ball off to Takumi Murai, who turned brilliantly and crashed a shot off the bar from 25 meters. Kuwamoto, who had continued his run, met the rebound and headed past Shinya Ishimori from 5 meters.
Morioka’s Yusuke Hayashi had a chance to pull his team level on 64 minutes from the penalty spot, but side-footed his penalty to the wrong side of the upright.
But he made up for the miss with the equalizer on 73 minutes, miscuing in front of goal with only the ‘keeper to beat before getting a second bite at the cherry and crashing home from close range before running to celebrate in front of the delirious Morioka fans.
Morioka, which beat Chiba’s Yachiyo 1-0 in their semifinal on Saturday, had come back into the game late on after Sakuyo had dominated large parts of it before tiring.
With the tournament’s semis just two days earlier, the round of 16 Wednesday and quarters Friday it was little wonder the players looked more than a little leaden footed on the expansive National Stadium pitch.
Morioka nimble forward Narita went close with 10 minutes gone, springing the Sakuyo defense, switching feet to his less-favored left and drawing an excellent save from Go Yasui from his shot.
Morioka was enjoying the lion’s share of possession early on, with the scampering Narita ready to pounce on any mistake, but Sakuyo, overall, looked the more threatening.
The Sakuyo youngsters were perhaps buoyed by the brass band that had come along in support of the side, with the able musicians fighting of the frostbite on their fingers to belt out a few ditties and keep the crowd entertained.
Sakuyo’s first chance fell on 15 minutes. Takamasa Sakai curled a beautiful free-kick up and over the wall, but the ball arched just wide of the upright.
Ten minutes later, Sakuyo’s Masatoshi Hamanaka dragged a shot wide from 10 meters out, while later in the half teammate Kaoru Hasegawa sent over a deep cross from the left which was met with a firm header by Nagisa Sakarauchi, but the ball grazed the top of the net.
The first clear-cut chance of the second half fell to Sakuyo’s Toshiyuki Komuro, with the forward’s pace taking him clear, but his shot was pulled too far wide.