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Cerezo, Marinos advance to Emperor’s Cup final

Kyodo

Yoichiro Kakitani scored the winner as Cerezo Osaka advanced to the Emperor’s Cup final against Yokohama F. Marinos thanks to a hard-fought 3-1 extra-time win over Vissel Kobe on Saturday.

At Osaka’s Yanmar Stadium, Kakitani, who entered in the 77th minute, headed home the rebound after his 98th-minute penalty was deflected by Vissel goakeeper Kim Seung-gyu. The ball popped up to Kim’s left and Kakitani had a clear path, diving for the ball and striking it at shoe-top height.

Cerezo, who won their first major domestic title in November at the YBC Levain Cup, will be playing in the finals for the first time in 14 tournaments.

“We’ve been playing with a strong desire to win in the Emperor’s Cup and the YBC Levain Cup, so today’s win came from that,” Kakitani said.

“I thought we were in trouble after my penalty shot was blocked, but the ball was in a good spot so I’m glad I scored.”

Kotaro Omori broke the scoreless deadlock for Vissel in the 90th minute. Although two teammates failed to connect with his curling cross from the left, it evaded defenders as well and curled just inside the far post.

It was a stunning turn of events after Cerezo had dominated play for 90 minutes, regularly pumping balls into the Vissel penalty area only to be thwarted by bad timing and good saves from Kim. But the South Korean ‘keeper failed to preserve the surprise lead just seconds later.

Kim tried to clear a loose ball in front of goal, but mishit it and was out of position when the ball looped to Kota Mizunuma, who fired in the equalizer.

Cerezo caught their biggest break of the game, when the ball struck Kobe midfielder Naoyuki Fujita’s elbow in the penalty area. They got another seconds later, when Kim blocked Kakitani’s penalty but was unable to prevent his header.

A failed clearance sealed Vissel’s fate in the second period of extra time, when Kakitani latched on to the ball and supplied the ball to Souza. The Brazilian midfielder, who had masterminded Cerezo’s first-half siege of Kim’s goal, beat the ‘keeper in a one-on-one to complete the scoring.

Vissel played without striker and former German international Lukas Podolski, who is treating a left thigh injury.

Cerezo manager Yoon Jong-hwan said he was expecting to win without going into extra time, yet was pleased to make it to the final.

“I wanted to win within the first 90 minutes of the match, so it’s disappointing we went into the extra time,” Yoon said.

“We remained calm and patient, and didn’t give up until the end — that’s why we won the match.”

At Kawasaki’s Todoroki Stadium, Hiroki Iikura’s string of excellent saves kept Marinos in the game in a 2-1 extra-time victory over Kashiwa Reysol.

A strike from Ramon Lopes put Reysol in front in the 11th minute, but Sho Ito’s 69th-minute header equalized for Marinos.

With a penalty shootout looming, Hugo Vieira scored the 118th-minute winner. Iikura then preserved the victory with a tremendous save on a ferocious close-range overhead volley from Kim Bo-kyung in the waning seconds.

The final will be held on New Year’s Day.