Shibasaki scores twice as Antlers beat S-Pulse in Nabisco Cup final


Staff Writer

Gaku Shibasaki struck twice to help defending champions Kashima Antlers capture the Nabisco Cup for a record fifth time with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Shimizu S-Pulse on Saturday afternoon.

Twenty-year-old midfielder Shibasaki lit the touch paper on a quiet game at National Stadium by winning and converting a penalty in the 73rd minute, only for S-Pulse to hit back from the spot four minutes later through Genki Omae.

But Shibasaki needed only three minutes of extra time to put Antlers back in front, settling the game with a right-foot shot to give manager Jorginho his first trophy since taking charge of the Ibaraki side at the start of the year.

“It’s a big privilege for me to win this title,” said Jorginho, who also won the Nabisco Cup as a player with Antlers in 1997. “Not everyone in the world gets an opportunity like this, but the season isn’t finished yet. The most important thing — more important than me — is the players’ desire to keep on working and winning. Getting this trophy today should help me keep the players motivated.”

The win gives Antlers their 16th trophy in club history — by far the most of any J.League club — and man-of-the-match Shibasaki was glad he could play his part.

“I was fouled for the penalty, so it was mine to take,” he said. “The veterans in this team have won so many titles for this club, so to help the club win another one makes me very proud.”

Jorginho, meanwhile, is aware that in Shibasaki he has a special talent on his hands.

“There are not many players like Shibasaki,” he said. “He is only 20 years old, but he plays with the composure of a veteran. To be able to play with such a cool head in central midfield is very difficult.

“Unfortunately for me he will probably go to play in Europe sooner rather than later, but for Japanese football that can only be a positive thing.”

S-Pulse made a confident start, with Toshiyuki Takagi drawing a punching save out of goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata in the 14th minute, but it was a rare piece of action in an otherwise uneventful first half.

The match exploded into life midway through the second period, however, with Shibasaki going down in the box under a challenge from Lee Ki Je just as he was about to pull the trigger following a quick counterattack from a corner. The midfielder promptly dusted himself down to dispatch the spot kick low to goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi’s left.

The lead would not last long. Referee Masaaki Iemoto spotted Chikashi Masuda felling Yasuhiro Hiraoka at an S-Pulse corner four minutes later, and Omae seized the opportunity with a coolly taken penalty.

Kim Hyun Sung almost won it for S-Pulse with a header at the end of the 90 minutes, but Shibasaki wasted no time in restoring Kashima’s lead once the additional period was under way. The former Aomori Yamada High School player flicked a pass from

Masuda into space in front of him, then strode on to lash a shot across Hayashi for his second of the afternoon.

Yuya Osako and Yasushi Endo had further chances to make the game safe for Antlers, as time ran out on S-Pulse’s hopes of winning a first trophy since 2001.

“Overall I was disappointed with our performance in overtime,” said S-Pulse manager Afshin Ghotbi, who fielded a starting lineup with an average age of just 23. “We let in a very bad goal at the beginning of overtime, and especially in games with so much pressure and when fatigue sets in, it is difficult to come back.

“Having said all that, I am proud of our team and the strategy and vision we have for the club. We still have two cups to fight for in the remaining part of the season, and I think the quest to fight for this trophy will only make us better.”