• Kyodo News


Kazumichi Takagi scored a contender for own goal of the season and Hulk grabbed a double as Tokyo Verdy thrashed sorry Shimizu S-Pulse 4-1 in the J. League on Sunday.

Under no real pressure, Takagi inexplicably drove an attempted back pass past horrified goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe from distance to gift Verdy the lead after half an hour at Ajinomoto Stadium.

More woeful defending from S-Pulse allowed Hulk to extend Verdy’s lead on the stroke of halftime, the Brazilian collecting a Takuya Honda interception to slot home from a tight angle.

Shimizu’s hopes of salvaging something from the game were all but put to bed five minutes after the break when Leandro cut inside Naoaki Aoyama to beat Nishibe with a simple finish.

Leandro then turned provider for Hulk to smash home his second of the game on 76 minutes before an Aoyama shot was deflected past Yoichi Doi by a Verdy defender to give the visitors a late consolation.

“All my players were really up for it today. We had a bit of luck with the first goal but we worked really hard for 90 minutes,” said Verdy manager Tetsuji Hashiratani.

“Obviously we want to score as many goals as possible but it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet.”

In an earlier game, Alessandro canceled out Yoshito Okubo’s 32nd-minute opener with his sixth goal of the season to earn Albirex Niigata a 1-1 draw away to Vissel Kobe.

The J. League heads into a month-plus break to accommodate national team action and resumes with the 14th round of matches on June 28.

Survivors’ message

MANCHESTER (AP) The surviving “Busby Babes” from the Munich air disaster have urged their Manchester United heirs not to be distracted by paying tribute on the pitch 50 years on.

Man United was ripped apart in the Munich air disaster in 1958, thwarting a likely European Cup title for Matt Busby’s swashbuckling side. But the current Red Devils team has been told not to lose focus ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League final against Chelsea in Moscow.

“I would never put pressure on these players,” said Bobby Charlton, who delivered a history lesson to the United squad in January. “They have their own careers and Munich is a long time ago.

“It wouldn’t be fair to put total responsibility on them to win the Champions League to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.”

Twenty-three people, including eight players, died as United’s plane crashed in a snowstorm following a refueling stop amid the celebrations of ousting Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup quarters.

The Feb 6. anniversary was marked with an emotional gathering of survivors and current players at Old Trafford. Instead of providing an motivational boost, Ferguson’s team lost 2-1 just days later to crosstown rival Manchester City after wearing retro red jerseys.

“I don’t want to burden today’s players with what happened many years ago and jump on the bandwagon — that would be very wrong,” said Harry Gregg, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper who dragged passengers from the smoldering wreckage.

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