SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Yasuki Kimoto scored a dramatic injury-time winner as Cerezo Osaka edged local rivals Gamba Osaka 2-1 on Sunday to reach their first J. League Cup final.
Cerezo went through 4-3 on aggregate and will face Kawasaki Frontale in the Nov. 4 final at Saitama Stadium. Frontale defeated Vegalta Sendai 3-1 at home in the other semifinal second leg, advancing 5-4 overall.
With the first leg having finished 2-2 on Wednesday, Gamba looked to be heading to their second straight final on away goals after Jin Izumisawa leveled to cancel out Yoichiro Kakitani’s 15th-minute opener for Cerezo at Suita Stadium.
But defender Kimoto headed home in the 95th minute to secure victory, triggering delirious scenes among the away fans behind the goal.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Kimoto. “All the players worked so hard. I got myself forward knowing that a goal would win it for us so I’m glad I could score. I had never scored (in the Osaka derby) before so I can’t really put my emotions into words.
“To be honest there might have been some people that had given up on us but we never stopped fighting right until the end. Still, we haven’t achieved anything yet so we can’t be satisfied with this.”
Cerezo had the first clear chance of the game, Kakitani forcing a crucial save from Gamba keeper Yosuke Fujigaya in the 14th minute.
But the former Japan striker was not to be denied a second time and outmuscled Izumisawa before sweeping past Fujigaya from a tight angle.
Ryuji Sawakami squandered a chance to extend Cerezo’s lead when he directed his header straight at Fujigaya, and Yasuyuki Konno nearly snatched an equalizer on the stroke of halftime with a header that was deflected just over the bar.
Another opportunity went begging for Cerezo when Toshiki Onozawa scuffed wide following a flowing move, and the miss was punished as Gamba leveled on the hour mark.
Yasuhito Endo’s long ball found Ryota Hatsuse, who whipped in a low cross from the right for Izumisawa to volley in at the far post.
But Cerezo moved up a gear and after twice going close, they made the breakthrough right at the death, Kota Mizunuma sending in a pinpoint cross for Kimoto to win it with a free header.
In the other semifinal, Koji Miyoshi scored twice to put Kawasaki 2-0 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate. Sendai pulled one back through Yoshihiro Nakano, but Tatsuya Hasegawa struck in the 90th minute to close out the win.
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