SAITAMA – Kawasaki Frontale claimed the Levain Cup with a penalty shootout win against Consadole Sapporo on Saturday following a late brace from captain Yu Kobayashi that kept the J. League champions alive after they were reduced to 10 men.
Following three lead changes, the drama-filled final went to spot kicks after Kobayashi pulled Frontale level at 3-3 in the 19th minute of extra time at Saitama Stadium.
Consadole looked set to hoist their first league cup trophy when Lucas Fernandes put them up 4-3 on penalties, but Frontale ‘keeper Shota Arai saved two straight attempts from Naoki Ishikawa and Ryosuke Shindo to seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout.
It was Frontale’s fifth league cup final and their first victory, and Arai was named the game’s MVP.
“The players taught me that anything is possible if you don’t give up until the very end,” Frontale manager Toru Oniki said. “We changed our team history, in which we haven’t been able to win in do-or-die situations.”
After entering as a 73rd-minute substitute, Frontale’s talisman Kobayashi put his team up 2-1 late in regulation, but Consadole midfielder Kazuki Fukai struck in the 95th minute to send it to extra time.
Akito Fukumori gave Consadole a 3-2 lead with a spectacular free kick in the 99th minute, immediately after Frontale went a man down with defender Shogo Taniguchi’s dismissal.
Following a review by the video assistant referee, Taniguchi was red carded for denying Thai star Chanathip Songkrasin a goal scoring opportunity with a foul on the edge of the area.
Lining at the top right of the box, Fukumori curled his shot beyond the wall and into the top left corner.
Consadole were unable to hold onto the lead despite the man advantage, with Kobayashi pulling his team level from a set play in the 109th minute.
Consadole striker Musashi Suzuki was first to the corner kick but only succeeded in deflecting the ball across goal to Frontale defender Kazuya Yamamura, who set up Kobayashi directly in front with his first touch.
Consadole jumped in front in the 10th minute on Daiki Suga’s thundering shot from the left of the area after a cross from teammate Kosuke Shirai was deflected into his path.
Japan forward Suzuki missed a chance to double the lead in the 18th minute, hitting the side netting under pressure following a strong run down the center of the pitch.
Kawasaki came within centimeters of an equalizer just before halftime, this time with Yasuto Wakizaka hitting the bar after Akihiro Ienaga picked him out on the break with a perfectly weighted cross from the right.
But Frontale drew level on the last play of the half, with Leandro Damiao getting his head to a corner kick and glancing the ball into the path of Hiroyuki Abe, who hammered it home from the right of goal.
Kobayashi scored what looked to be the winner with two minutes left in regulation, running onto a short ball over the top from extra-time substitute Ryota Oshima before firing past Consadole ‘keeper Gu Sung-yun from the middle of the area.
But Fukai ensured there would be 30 additional minutes when he leapt high in the air to head home the equalizer from Fukumori’s corner kick.