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Nagoya Grampus 1–1 Kashima Antlers (3–1 Pens): J-League Champions Win First Trophy Of The Season

J-League champions Nagoya Grampus grabbed the first title of the season by clinching the Japan Super Cup, defeating Emperor Cup winners Kashima Antlers on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

On a sunny day at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, in front of almost 36,000 spectators, both teams proved they are in strong physical condition only one week before the beginning of the J-League.

The game was an intriguing fixture as a start for the 2011 season due to the fact that the teams involved are two favourites for the title.

There is also a fierce rivalry between the two managers, Oswaldo Oliveira and Dragan Stojkovic, who teased each other before the game.

The former Yugoslavian international hoped Oliveira's men would “play a great game and finish second”.

The Brazilian guru replied between his teeth by hissing: “No comment!”

Grampus started with a daring formation in the midfield, featuring all their three fantasistas: Yoshizumi Ogawa, Mu Kanazaki and newcomer Jungo Fujimoto.

Antlers replied with a classic line-up, very similar to that seen at the end of the past season, with Alex instead of Gilton as left-back.

Nine minutes into the second half, Jungo Fujimoto designed a perfect cross that was met by Takahiro Masukawa’s head, giving Grampus the advantage.

Antlers’ reply came only 12 minutes later when midfielder Takuya Nozawa drove home a breathtaking direct free-kick. The trajectory around the wall and into the corner of the goal was so impressive that even some of the Grampus fans in the stands clapped their hands as the replay was shown on the stadium’s screen.

The efforts of young gun Yuya Osako and Shinzo Koroki on one side, and Joshua Kennedy on the other were not enough to break the deadlock, and the 90 minutes ended 1-1.

The game proceeded directly to penalty-kicks, which saw former Japan international Seigo Narazaki star. Grampus’ goalkeeper saved three shots out of four and gave his team the victory.

This was a very important result for Nagoya Grampus, as they have shown they can play at the level equal to the team most still consider the best team in Japan, Kashima Antlers.

Moreover, there was a promising start in the stands as well. The huge turnout showed that supporters have braved the Asian Cup’s hangover and are ready for another exciting year of Japanese domestic football.

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