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J-League Cup: Sanfrecce Hiroshima And Jubilo Iwata To Face Off In Final

Two spectacular return-leg semifinals played last Sunday determined the finalists for the 2010 J.League Cup. With many of the top Japanese players on duty with the national team it was the chance for some unexpected heroes to shine as Jubilo Iwata won in Kawasaki and Sanfrecce Hiroshima weathered the storm against Shimizu S-Pulse and returned home with a precious tie.

Kawasaki Frontale 1-3 Jubilo Iwata


At Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki almost 15,000 gathered for a semifinal played on a warm autumn afternoon. Most were Frontale supporters, hoping to see their players making it through a second consecutive Nabisco Cup final. The home side came into this game with the advantage of an away victory in the previous leg, and needed only a tie to earn a final berth on November 3.

Both teams released their star players such as Kengo Nakamura (Frontale) and Ryuichi Maeda (Jubilo) for international duty and played an open game. The first half saw chances fall to both sides.

Oi leaped to give Jubilo the lead in the 35th minute from a corner kick but only three minutes later Juninho was clever enough to follow up on a ball stopped by a defender to find himself alone in front of Naoki Hatta; his clinical shot hit the post and gave Frontale the equalizer.

Besides Juninho, the other two Brazilians on the field, Vitor Junior for Frontale and Gilsinho for Jubilo, were the best parts of the match and contributed to a vivacious second half.

Frontale missed two huge opportunities to seal the game and as so often happens, were punished by a swift counterattack: super-sub Ryohei Yamazaki cut through a distracted Frontale defense and received a perfect ball from Gilsinho. The 21 year-old controlled and skillfully placed his shot behind Takashi Aizawa in the 78th minute.

While Frontale catapulted themselves forward, looking for the goal that would still qualify them for the final, the Jubilo players wisely slowed down the game and struck once more in the 88th minute with an acrobatic header by Sho Naruoka.

This unexpected home defeat marks another painful chapter in the recent history of Frontale, a club that regularly dwells amongst other top Japanese clubs but is yet to win a single title.

There are clearly some problems with the mental approach by the players but it is also clear that the defections during the season took their toll on the quality of the football played by Kawasaki.

Besides the aforementioned absence of Kengo Nakamura, Frontale this season lost Eiji Kawashima and Chong Tese to Europe after the World Cup, while Brazilian forward Renatinho returned to Brazil after disagreements with the coaching staff.

Veteran centerback Shuhei Terada has meanwhile been injured since early May but it is otherwise hard to explain why what on paper seems a very ambitious club has deliberately failed to replace some of their most important players after their departure.

On the other hand, it's a great achievement for Jubilo, who also had to cope with several absences last Sunday but kept themselves in the game until the class of Gilsinho resolved the semifinal series in their favor.

Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Sanfrecce Horishma

In Shimizu, S-Pulse was bravely led by Shinji Ono and overwhelmed Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but failed to score until the 87th minute. In the meantime, the visitors had managed to earn a very precious away lead with Satoru Yamagishi in the 64th minute. The 1-1 result, combined with Sanfrecce’s victory in the first leg, means the Hiroshima club will play their first J.League final since 1994, when the were defeated by Verdy Kawasaki in the now discontinued championship series.

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