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Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012

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Top of the class: Ichiritsu Funabashi's Ryuji Izumi scores the winning goal in his team's 2-1 victory over Yokkaichi Chuo Kogyo in the national high school championship at National Stadium on Monday. KYODO

Funabashi captures title


Captain Ryuji Izumi scored a last-gasp equalizer and then went on to win it in extra time as Chiba's Ichiritsu Funabashi captured its fifth high school national championship with a 2-1 victory over Yokkaichi Chuo Kogyo of Mie on Monday.

Yokkaichi drew first blood in the very first minute through Takuma Asano, who finished as the tournament's top scorer with seven goals, and appeared well on its way to its first title in 20 years.

Izumi, however, leveled in the 91st minute before producing the winner in the second half of extra time at National Stadium as Funabashi lifted the trophy for the first time in nine years.

"We had a lot of chances from corners during the stretch and I thought it was just a matter of time before we scored," Izumi said of his first goal. "All I had to do was just tap it in.

"I'm proud to have been a part of this team for the last three years. I thought we were the better team even before the match, from our work rate to our bench to our determination, and I'm glad we were able to prove it."

Yokkaichi, which thrashed Fukushima's Shoshi 6-1 in the semifinals on Saturday, was off to a fast start, reaching the scoreboard moments after kickoff.

From a rightwing corner, Asano, who netted in all six games this tournament, pounced on the deflection of a shot by strike partner Shota Tamura as Funabashi conceded for just the third time in five matches.

Yokkaichi was without suspended captain Yusuke Kuniyoshi, but the Mie side — boasting the competition's most prolific attack with 18 goals from its previous five games — continued to control the match, keeping Funabashi on its heels.

Funabashi regrouped for the second half, pushing forward with aggression in search of an equalizer. It dominated the last 20 minutes, and was rewarded for its efforts in the first of two injury-time minutes.

From a scramble in the box after a corner, Izumi poked in his fourth goal of the competition to invite the 20 minutes of extra time.

The intensity picked up as the teams exchanged punch for punch, but it was Izumi who had the last laugh with a solo effort in the 105th minute.

Funabashi coach Ryuzo Asaoka, who played for the school's first championship team, said he never doubted his team even as it struggled to breach the Yokkaichi defense.

"To catch up to them the way we did in injury time says everything about the heart of our boys," Asaoka said. "I've always felt we had the potential to win it.

"I watched this team mature through the regionals as well as this tournament. The players were set on winning the title, and they went out and showed it.

"I'm so happy I helped them achieve their goal. As I watched these kids climb up to the podium, I thought I was dreaming. It's nothing short of brilliant."

Lucescu recovering


BUCHAREST — Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu is doing well after undergoing surgery following a car accident, a Bucharest hospital said Monday.

Dragos Vinereanu, an official at the University Emergency Hospital, said Monday that Lucescu is conscious and his condition is stable following an operation.

Hospital manager Catalin Carstoiu said earlier that surgery was performed on Lucescu late Sunday because blood was gathering in the Romanian coach's chest. Several broken ribs were also fixed.

Lucescu's SUV was hit by a tram on Friday. Police are investigating.

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