Defender Atsuto Uchida and Brazilian midfielder Danilo were on target as Kashima Antlers defeated Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 to win the Emperor’s Cup on Tuesday.
Uchida’s clinical finish after eight minutes put Kashima in front and substitute Danilo added a late second as the Antlers completed a league and cup double and inflicted more heartbreak on Sanfreece just weeks after it was relegated to the second division.
“I’m double happy,” laughed Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira. “Looking back at the beginning of the season I thought it would be difficult (to win two trophies) but I’m expected to do a good job and I’m an optimist.
“The championship is much more difficult than any other competition. In the Emperor’s Cup there are only five games but in the league there are 34. But anyway the Emperor’s Cup is an important title and we worked very hard to win both,” said the Brazilian.
The Emperor’s Cup triumph was Kashima’s first since the Antlers wrapped up an unprecedented domestic treble with a 3-2 win over Shimizu S-Pulse in the 2000 season.
Kashima’s opener came out of nothing, Uchida finding space to ram past Takashi Shimoda from a tight angle but a New Year’s Day crowd of over 46,000 had little else to get excited about in a tepid first half at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
Tomoaki Makino spurned a free header for Sanfrecce on 17 minutes and although Japan international Yuichi Komano caused Kashima plenty of problems on the right flank, he was unable to provide the telling pass in the final third.
Hiroshima started strongly in the second period but it was Kashima which twice went close to doubling its lead through Daiki Iwamasa and Yuzo Tashiro.
Iwamasa saw a 55th-minute header brilliantly turned around the post by Shimoda, who then thwarted Tashiro from close range soon after.
Koji Morisaki drew a fine save from Hitoshi Sogahata at the other end but Hiroshima rarely looked like salvaging anything and substitute Danilo put the game out of reach when he blasted home deep into injury time.
“Kashima are the J. League champions so we were aware of how strong they would be. They were fresher and more aggressive than us,” said Hiroshima manager Mihailo Petrovic.
“Perhaps we might have had more of a chance if (suspended midfielder Yosuke) Kashiwagi had played. But we got all the way to the final and the players battled until the end to try and get something from the game.”