Soccer / J. League

Cerezo triumph in Emperor’s Cup final

Kyodo

Cerezo Osaka capped Japan’s soccer season with a 2-1 extra-time win over Yokohama F. Marinos in Monday’s Emperor’s Cup final.

Kazuya Yamamura equalized in the 65th minute and Kota Mizunuma struck the winner five minutes into the first extra period before a crowd of 42,029 at Saitama Stadium.

Cerezo were coming off a victory in the J. League Cup, their first title since the league’s start in 1992. The club’s predecessor, Yanmar, had won the Emperor’s Cup final three times.

“It was a tougher match than we expected,” Cerezo head coach Yoon Jong-hwan said. “I believed in the players and that never wavered.”

F. Marinos dominated the early proceedings, with Cerezo’s forwards appearing less disciplined and poised than the Yokohama defenders, who repeatedly turned the ball back to their attackers.

After missing a half-chance in the second minute, Sho Ito was flawless when a golden opportunity came his way six minutes later. The striker headed defender Takumi Shimohira’s long ball down in front of his marker and then calmly booted it past Kim Jin-hyeon as the keeper came out to challenge him.

Marinos lost some of their attacking mojo when midfielder Ryosuke Yamanaka came off injured at the end of the first half. Yamanaka’s passes into the penalty area had kept Cerezo’s defenders on their toes for 45 minutes, and without him, Marinos lost an extra gear on offense.

With Yamanaka out and referee Minoru Tojo giving tremendous latitude to an extremely physical defense led by Matej Jonjic, Cerezo began creating more and more opportunities. And it eventually paid off.

Having squandered numerous possessions, Cerezo equalized in the 65th minute when Yamamura struck home a failed clearance from close range. Keeper Hiroki Iikura dived to block a shot from Mizunuma. Defender Ken Matsubara scuffed the clearance to Yamamura, who blasted it in.

“I came into this game no different from any other, focused on winning,” Yamamura said. “I was finally able to deliver at the end, so I’m happy about that. It turned out to be a great season for us.”

Cerezo broke the deadlock in the 95th minute thanks to a goalkeeping error by Iikura. The Marinos keeper came out of his goal to grab a cross from Yamamura but merely stood there. Mizunuma, however, was waiting behind Iikura in perfect position to head the cross into the net from a tight angle. Iikura, who had put in a reliable shift to that point, could only kick the post in frustration.

“Everything was due to my teammates,” Mizunuma said. “They did the hard work. I trusted in them and just kept running. This is what we worked toward ever since before the start of the season.”

The game was the last with Marinos for head coach and former Paris Saint-Germain boss Erick Mombaerts, who took over the Yokohama club in 2015.