Sanfrecce beat Mazembe to set up River Plate showdown

by Shintaro Kano


J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima comfortably beat TP Mazembe 3-0 to move on to the Club World Cup semifinals on Sunday.

Hiroshima scored from a pair of corners taken by Yusuke Chajima, first in the 44th minute through Tsukasa Shiotani and then in the 56th through Kazuhiko Chiba.

Golden boy Takuma Asano came off the bench to strike a third for Hajime Moriyasu’s men after 78 minutes to seal the win before a crowd of more than 23,000 at Nagai Stadium.

Kashiwa Reysol were the last J. League club to reach the semis in 2011, when they were beaten 3-1 by South American champion Santos and lost 5-3 on penalties to Al Sadd in the third-place match.

Sanfrecce remains in Osaka to play River Plate on Wednesday. Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande will face Barcelona in the other semifinal on Thursday in Yokohama.

“We’re very excited about it,” Shiotani said of facing the Copa Libertadores winners from Argentina. “You don’t get the opportunity to face the South American champions that often.”

“I’m just glad I did my part tonight. Everyone does on this team, and it’s what led us this far.”

The going keeps getting tougher for Hiroshima, which played its fourth game in 11 days on Sunday at the end of what has been a long season.

“I’m not going to lie, all the games are taking a toll on us,” Shiotani said. “But we’re playing all these games because we’re producing the right results so I don’t feel too bad about the fixtures.”

Having captured a third J-League title in four years, Hiroshima continued its remarkable campaign by knocking out the African champions from Congo just two days after a quarterfinal playoff win against Auckland City, a costly victory in which Sanfrecce lost two players to injury — Gakuto Notsuda and Kosei Shibasaki.

Shiotani struck for the second straight game midway through the opening half, poking in Sho Sasaki’s back-header from a Chajima right-wing corner.

Chajima impressed while making only his fourth appearance of the year in all competitions, and swung in another ball from the flag on the other side of halftime for Chiba, who glanced home into the left corner.

Asano replaced Hisato Sato with a quarter-hour left on the clock and promptly found the net three minutes later with a header of his own, nodding past goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo from a Mihael Mikic cross to pound the last nail in Mazembe’s coffin.

Moriyasu praised Chajima for stepping in and getting the job done despite having seen so little playing time this season.

“I think he played to the absolute best of his ability,” the manager said. “He had a hand in a couple of goals and showcased his strength, which is his high work rate at both ends of the pitch.”

“On Thursday, I hope we can frustrate our opponents as we did today. We’re going out there to win it and not just be a participant.”