Monday 12 December 2011

Japanese champions Kashiwa reach last four of Club World Cup



Eight days after sealing their historic first J. League championship, Kashiwa Reysol proudly flew the flag for Japan by edging Monterrey of Mexico in a dramatic penalty shootout to set up a FIFA Club World Cup semi-final date with Brazilian giants Santos.

After 120 minutes of highly entertaining football had ended with the sides still level at 1-1 – Leandro Domingues’s opener for Kashiwa in the second half of normal time having been quickly cancelled out by Humberto Suazo – Takanori Sugeno denied Monterrey captain Lucho Pérez at the first kick of the shootout to immediately put the host nation representatives in the driving seat.

Both teams missed with their fourth penalties, but substitute forward Ryohei Hayashi made no mistake with Reysol’s fifth to spark yet more celebrations for the men in yellow.

Kashiwa had eased into the competition with a 2-0 victory over Oceania champions Auckland City of New Zealand in Thursday’s opening match, and coach Nelsinho Baptista saw no need to make changes to a team that was at full strength bar the absent backup defender Park Dong-Hyuk – whose end-of-season departure was confirmed last week.

In the opening stages it looked as if their first ever international adventure would be a short one, however, as Monterrey dominated the first quarter with pace and numbers in attack. Chilean forward Suazo was a constant menace, striking the foot of the opposite post from César Delgado’s pinpoint cross before sending a direct free kick curling narrowly wide moments later.

But having weathered the early storm, Kashiwa began to settle into the contest and created their first two good chances either side of half time. Junya Tanaka could only head a deep cross from Hiroki Sakai into the side netting, while strike partner Masato Kudo hit a difficult left-footed volley over the crossbar three minutes after the restart.

The first goal soon arrived on 53 minutes. After Leandro had lost possession on the edge of the area, Tanaka was quick to pounce on the loose ball and cut a cross back for the Brazilian near the penalty spot. The J. League’s Most Valuable Player was able to adjust his position to fire a spectacular volley into the far corner beyond the dive of Jonathan Orozco.

Their lead was short-lived, however, as Monterrey quickly regrouped to hit Reysol on the counter five minutes later. Delgado beat the offside trap to collect a long pass played down the right-hand flank and send in another perfect cross for Suazo, who made no mistake this time as his outstretched left boot stabbed the ball past Sugeno at the far post.

Kashiwa recovered from the disappointment to regain control and were comfortably the most threatening thereafter, with Orozco forced into two smart saves from Tanaka headers, but the game steadily settled into a stalemate situation as the end of first normal time, then extra time approached.

The home crowd enjoyed the perfect start to the penalty competition when Sugeno superbly kept out Pérez, and Reysol were on the brink of glory when Orozco struck the post with the CONCACAF champions already 3-2 behind.

Monterrey’s goalkeeper partially redeemed himself by saving from Tanaka immediately afterwards, but Hayashi held his nerve with Kashiwa’s fifth to secure that glamour tie against Santos in Toyota this Wednesday.

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Goalscorer Leandro Domingues spoke to Football Japan after the quarter-final win that capped a momentous week for Kashiwa.

“We were thrust into this tournament after winning the J. League just last Saturday, and this was already our second game. By contrast our opponents had had plenty of time to rest, thus we started off at a real disadvantage.

“Monterrey were a really high-quality team and it was a very close contest. But we had found our rhythm and were passing the ball around well in the lead up to our goal; and I was happy with my finish. It was just a shame that we then made a mistake and conceded the equaliser so soon afterwards.

“But we won in the end to seal our progression and that is the most important thing. It is a dream for any footballer to play in the Club World Cup – I was delighted to score and am thankful to all of my team mates.

“Santos are a world-class team, just like Barcelona. So that will be a very tough game, but I think we can surprise them.”


TALKING POINTS
- AFC Champions League winners Al-Sadd beat Espérance of Tunisia 2-1 in the other Club World Cup quarter-final thanks to goals from Khalfan Ibrahim and Abdulla Koni. The Qataris will now face European champions FC Barcelona in Yokohama this Thursday.
- A J. League board meeting held this afternoon officially approved the promotion to J2 of JFL sides Matsumoto Yamaga and Machida Zelvia. The latter beat Kamatamare Sanuki 2-0 yesterday to seal the required top four finish.


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 www.theblizzard.co.uk for details.


FIFA Club World Cup quarter-final results
Esperance (TUN) 1-2 Al-Sadd (QAT)
Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 1-1 Monterrey (MEX) (after extra time; Kashiwa win 4-3 on penalties)


FIFA Club World Cup first round result
Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 2
-0 Auckland City (NZL)


Japan Football League final standings
1) SAGAWA SHIGA 70
2) Nagano Parceiro 63
3) Machida Zelvia 61 – promoted
4) Matsumoto Yamagata 59 – promoted
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5) V-Varen Nagasaki 56
6) Honda FC 52
7) Zweigen Kanazawa 47
8) Honda Lock 47
9) FC Ryukyu 46
10) Tochigi Uva 45
11) Kamatamare Sanuki 40
12) Sagawa Printing 38
13) MIO Biwako Kusatsu 38
14) Blaublitz Akita 37
15) Yokogawa Musashino 36
16) Arte Takasaki 34
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17) JEF Reserves 19 – withdrawn
18) Sony Sendai 16*

* Sony Sendai played a reduced schedule of 17 matches due to damage sustained in the 11 March earthquake and were exempt from relegation

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