SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Brazilian substitute Fabricio struck an extra-time winner as J. League champions Kashima Antlers completed a league and cup double with a 2-1 victory over Kawasaki Frontale in the Emperor’s Cup final on Sunday.
Shuto Yamamoto headed Kashima into a 42nd-minute lead before Kawasaki hit back through a fine effort from Yu Kobayashi early in the second half of an entertaining but occasionally bad-tempered game at Suita Stadium.
But Fabricio, brought on just before the end of normal time in what he said was his last appearance for Antlers, rifled in the clincher early in the first extra period.
“I put three substitutes on in the hope that we could get the job done in 90 minutes,” Kashima manager Masatada Ishii said. “We couldn’t and it went to 120 minutes, but the players squeezed out every last drop.”
The win saw Antlers underline a remarkable finish to the season. In just over a month, Ishii’s men defied the odds to win a record eighth league title and then became the first Asian team to reach the Club World Cup final, where they pushed European champions Real Madrid to the brink before eventually losing 4-2 in extra time.
“We won the league championship and qualified for the Club World Cup, and for the players it really stung losing in the final. They wanted to win this title at all costs and that showed in their character today,” said Ishii.
The Emperor’s Cup title was Kashima’s fifth overall and first since beating Shimizu S-Pulse in the 2010 final. Kawasaki had reached their first final and were looking to avenge their 1-0 defeat to Kashima in the J. League championship semifinal playoff.
Antlers have now won 19 major domestic titles, by far the most in the J. League.
“Over the course of the year our target has been to settle for nothing less than victory and win titles and I am happy we could finish the season by winning the Emperor’s Cup,” said Kashima captain Mitsuo Ogasawara.
Said Gaku Shibasaki, who scored twice against Real and set up both goals in the 2-0 Emperor’s Cup semifinal win over Yokohama F. Marinos, “It was difficult (going to extra time) but the whole team pulled together. Every player on the team was tired but we expressed how much we wanted to win on the pitch.”
Kawasaki had the first chance of a full-blooded first half after good work from Yoshito Okubo, the veteran striker wriggling his way through to bring out a one-handed save from Hitoshi Sogahata.
Sogahata was alert to keep out Kobayashi’s effort in the 18th before tempers started to boil over, Kashima winning two free kicks that infuriated Frontale following incidents involving Mitsuo Ogasawara and Elsinho, and then Nishi and Kyohei Noborizato.
Noborizato, on the end of frequent grillings by Okubo, missed a great chance on 28 minutes, sending a free header wide after a fine cross from Kobayashi.
Kashima thought they had taken the lead when Nishi prodded home from close range with eight minutes of the first half remaining, but the goal was flagged for offside.
But Antlers did eventually go in front just before the break. Yamamoto got his head to Endo’s powerful cross and although Kawasaki ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong got a hand to the ball, he could only tip it against the inside of the post and into the net.
Kashima rode their luck in defense early in the first half and Kawasaki leveled through Kobayashi, who dummied Oshima’s ball and took a pass from substitute Koji Miyoshi to hammer past Sogahata.
Another Miyoshi pass set Kobayashi free in the 65th minute and the 29-year-old went desperately close to putting Frontale in front with a shot that came back off the post.
With the game swinging from end to end Kobayashi was again denied with a goal-bound shot hacked away by Nishi with two minutes left.
Kashima manager Ishii then threw on Fabricio and the move paid dividends in the fourth minute of extra time, the Brazilian burying a loose ball after Nishi beat Shogo Taniguchi in the box.
“I just wanted to help in any way I could. That’s all I was thinking about and it led to a goal and I am delighted,” said Fabricio.
The match was the last for Yahiro Kazama as Kawasaki manager. Kazama is set to take over at relegated Nagoya Grampus, and Okubo, the J. League’s top scorer from 2013 to 2015, is bound for FC Tokyo.
“I told the players in the dressing room how grateful I am for the last five years,” said Kazama. “They battled right until the end and although the result is unfortunate, I think it is one they can build on.”
Okubo said, “The game is finished so there is no need to analyze. (The last four years with Frontale) have been great (but) we panicked a bit on this stage.”
Kashima, Urawa Reds, who finished top of the overall standings, and Kawasaki have all qualified for the Asian Champions League and will be in Groups E, F and G, respectively.
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