Friday 16 December 2011

Neymar and company brush aside brave Reysol

J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol were denied a glamour date with FC Barcelona in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup as spectacular strikes from Neymar, Borges, and Danilo gave Brazilian giants Santos a 3-1 victory in their last four meeting at the Toyota Stadium on Wednesday.

Despite a spirited second half fightback, which saw Hiroki Sakai add to his growing stock with a headed goal that briefly reduced the deficit to one, the Sun Kings will instead have to make do with a playoff for third place against AFC Champions League winners Al-Sadd of Qatar – who were thrashed 4-0 by the Catalans in Yokohama yesterday evening.

Remaining faithful to the same eleven that had begun both of their previous matches in this competition, Kashiwa started the match in confident fashion – clearly buoyed by the occasion and the penalty shootout victory over Mexican side Monterrey in the quarter-finals.

But they were given an early warning of the creative weapons at the South Americans’ disposal when a defensive mix-up allowed Neymar to steal in and hit the post after just five minutes, and it was the 19-year-old wonderboy who soon opened the scoring for Santos in typically extravagant style.

Collecting a pass some 30 yards from goal, Neymar deceived Reysol captain Hidekazu Otani with a clever piece of footwork to switch the ball from his right to left boot, before curling a perfect shot well beyond the reach of Takanori Sugeno and into the top corner of the net.

The action had little time to settle down thereafter before the lead was doubled in no less impressive fashion by Borges. The mid-season arrival from Grêmio, who had a successful spell in Japan with Vegalta Sendai back in 2006, turned inside Kashiwa centre-backs Naoya Kondo and Tatsuya Masushima and created just enough space to bend home a right-footed effort from inside the D.

Kashiwa boss Nelsinho Baptista, who both played for and managed Santos, responded by introducing Hideaki Kitajima for Masato Kudo at half-time. Although the Brazilians appeared to remain in total control at the onset of the second period, the ‘home’ side gained a sudden and unexpected lifeline on 53 minutes.

Jorge Wagner struck a characteristically accurate outswinging corner from the left, and Sakai soared above the opposing defenders to head comfortably past Rafael Cabral.

But their deficit was restored to two just nine minutes later when Ryoichi Kurisawa conceded a free kick 25 yards from goal. This time it was defender Danilo’s turn to show off his skills, expertly sending the ball low around the outside of the wall but turning sharply back to bounce inside the unsighted Sugeno’s left-hand post.

Kashiwa refused to give up the fight, however, and were unfortunate not to score a quarter of an hour from time when Masakatsu Sawa struck the post from a narrow angle. The substitute really ought to have then found the target six minutes later but volleyed over from four yards when a Leandro Domingues cross had left him with an empty net at his mercy.

Nelsinho appeared satisfied with his charges after the match, commenting: “My team became J. League champions just 11 days ago and today was our third match since then, yet we were still able to create a lot of goalscoring opportunities. For us, this tournament has been a very good experience and we still have a match to come to decide third place.

“I think we have shown that Japanese football is really growing and developing, and the young players are especially developing very quickly.”


Despite being repeatedly frustrated by a well-drilled Al-Sadd back line for the opening 25 minutes of their semi-final, European champions Barcelona were able to take advantage of a catastrophic mix-up between goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr and left-back Nadir Belhadj to finally take the lead through Adriano.

The former Sevilla man added a second just before the interval, before second half goals from Seydou Keita and Maxwell completed a comfortable 4-0 victory – which was nonetheless overshadowed by a broken leg for the unfortunate David Villa.

Al-Sadd skipper Abdulla Koni offered his thoughts to Football Japan as his side look to put the defeat behind them and prepare for Sunday’s meeting with Kashiwa.

“Everybody makes mistakes. But today, God said we would make a mistake like this and we would lose like this. Times are good. We want to win and we lost, but for everything God gave you, you have to say thanks. Thanks for my players; they played very hard, they kept our goal safe.

“We will prepare for the (Kashiwa) game like we prepared for today’s game because we respect all of the teams. And if any team doesn’t respect us, it’s their mistake. But we will respect all teams and we will try our best to improve. Because we have some young players, it is good for them to learn and also to enjoy their lives. Also the Japanese team are very good so we will try to do our best and to be on the podium.”

The Football Japan Minutecast’s Ben Mabley tells the story of Japanese club football through eight previous thrilling title races in Issue Three of The Blizzard. Visit for details.

FIFA Club World Cup semi-final results
Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 1
-3 Santos (BRA)
Al-Sadd (QAT) 0-4 Barcelona (ESP)

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