• Kyodo

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Tokyo Verdy Beleza claimed the Empress Cup for the fourth straight year Tuesday, beating Nadeshiko League champion Urawa Reds 4-3 following a pair of second-half goals from Japan forward Rikako Kobayashi.

Beleza lifted the trophy a record 15th time following the final of the all-Japan women’s tournament at Kyoto’s Sanga Stadium, a replay of last year’s decider won 1-0 by the Tokyo club.

Urawa erased a 2-0 halftime deficit, then leveled the score again at 3-3 off the boot of 38-year-old World Cup winner Kozue Ando in the 86th minute, but Kobayashi struck the winner two minutes later.

Urawa had been aiming to win the tournament for the first time. The Saitama-based club last month clinched the last Nadeshiko League first-division championship before Japan’s new professional women’s league launches next year.

Reds and Beleza are among 11 clubs who will contest the professional WE League when it kicks off its inaugural season next September.

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