KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Cristiano fired 10-man Kashiwa Reysol into the quarterfinals of the Emperor’s Cup with a last-gasp strike in a 2-1 extra-time win over Ventforet Kofu on Sunday.
Kashiwa had to play the all 30 minutes of extra time a man down following the dismissal of defender Daisuke Suzuki, but Cristiano played a one-two with substitute Tomoki Imai and drove home to snatch victory in the 120th minute.
Kashiwa will face Vegalta Sendai, 2-1 winners over Matsumoto Yamaga on Saturday, in the quarterfinals on Dec. 26. Holders Gamba Osaka will play Sagan Tosu, who beat Montedio Yamagata 4-3 on Saturday, after goals from Kotaro Omori and Shu Kurata earned a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale at Expo Stadium in Sunday’s only other fourth-round tie.
“We played a lot of unnecessary long balls and passes and made tactical mistakes, and that is something we will need to fix for the last league game and the three (potential) Emperor’s Cup games at the end of the year,” said Kashiwa manager Tatsuma Yoshida, who will step down at the end of the season.
“But the players dug in and I really want them to qualify for the Asian Champions League. I won’t be around (if they get to the ACL) but I want the players to get that ticket (by winning the Emperor’s Cup).”
Kashiwa made a bright start and Cristiano, who also scored in both league games against Kofu this season, nearly fired them in front with just four minutes gone.
Masaru Matsuhashi fouled Cristiano just outside the box and the Brazilian’s ferocious free kick was tipped over the bar by Kofu goalkeeper Kohei Kawata.
Despite some intricate approach play, Kashiwa was unable to come up with an end product, although it nearly broke the deadlock five minutes before halftime when Eduardo got on the end of Hiroki Akino’s corner but had his effort well saved by Kawata.
The keeper pulled off another super stop to deny Yusuke Kobayashi from point-blank range six minutes into the second half, but Reysol finally broke the deadlock in the 53rd with a beautifully worked goal.
Cristiano released Hidekazu Otani with a perfectly weighted pass and the Kashiwa captain set up Masato Kudo for the simplest of finishes.
Kofu nearly hit back moments later but Yuki Hashizume flashed his free kick just wide of the post after Suzuki was booked for a cynical foul on Junya Ito.
Takuma Abe then forced Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno to brilliantly turn behind his low drive and Kofu captain Hiroto Hatao headed agonizingly wide from the resultant corner.
Eduardo squandered a great chance to double Kashiwa’s lead when he sent a free header wide at the other end and that miss proved costly as Abe set himself up with a lovely piece of skill to bury the equalizer in the 72nd minute.
Suzuki picked up his second yellow for a foul on Abe and was dismissed deep into injury time at the end of regulation but Cristiano sent the home fans into raptures when he curled his shot beyond Kawata to win it for Reysol.
“I am delighted and grateful to God for this goal,” said Cristiano. “It is difficult every time we play Kofu and everyone could see that was the case today, but we dug in hard until the end and I am happy we won.
“The Emperor’s Cup is the only title left for us to win and we will put our heart and soul into trying to do that.”