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Two goals in quick succession from striker Shingo Akamine helped FC Tokyo advance to the Emperor’s Cup semifinals after a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse on Saturday.

Yokohama F. Marinos beat second-division side Sagan Tosu 3-1 and Kashiwa Reysol edged promoted Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 after extra time to join FC Tokyo in the Dec. 29 semifinals. Gamba Osaka, which is in the Club World Cup, will play Nagoya Grampus in the other quarterfinal next Thursday.

At Yurtec Stadium in Sendai, Shimizu took a 25th-minute lead through Kazumichi Takagi only to see Akamine equalize from the penalty spot four minutes into the second half and then score the winner one minute later.

The victory put FC Tokyo into the last four for the first time in 11 years when it was the semi-professional Tokyo Gas.

At Best Amenity Stadium in Saga Prefecture, Koji Hirose delighted the home crowd with a 23rd-minute goal, but F. Marinos hit back three minutes later with a Yuji Nakazawa header on a corner from Kenta Kano.

Another Kano corner again set up defender Kurihara to head home on the stroke of halftime and the midfielder got on the scoresheet himself later in the game, helping F. Marinos reach the semis for the first time in 14 years.

At Okayama, Brazilian Franca broke a 2-2 deadlock with a soft chip over Hiroshima keeper Akihiro Sato nine minutes into extra time as Kashiwa held off the J2 champion after squandering the lead twice in the first 26 minutes. Japan international Hisato Sato netted both goals for Sanfrecce, last season’s beaten finalist.

J. League dates set

Kyodo News

The 2009 J. League season will kick off on March 7 and run through Dec. 5 with a break of nearly a month for World Cup qualifiers, the league announced Friday.

The Xerox Super Cup, the traditional curtain raiser for the new J. League season, will be held Feb. 28 before the first and second divisions open their new seasons a week later.

The first division will have a break after May 24 games prior to three World Cup qualifiers scheduled for June and resume action on June 21.

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