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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Defending Nabisco Cup champion Reds suffer early setback

Urawa Reds' hopes of successfully defending their Nabisco Cup title suffered an early setback after a surprise 3-2 defeat at home to Oita Trinita in the first round of group-stage matches on Saturday.

News photo
Daisuke Sakata (left) of the Yokohama F. Marinos and Sanfrecce Hiroshima's Kota Hattori chase the ball during their Nabisco Cup first-round game on Saturday at Hiroshima Stadium. The match ended in a scoreless draw.

Oita, which narrowly escaped relegation last season, raced into a two-goal lead after 16 minutes through Magno Alves and Takayuki Yoshida before a penalty from in-form striker Emerson and a 68th-minute goal from Makoto Hasebe drew Urawa level.

But Japan Under-23 striker Daiki Takamatsu secured all three points for the visitor when he came off the bench to strike the winner in the last minute of the Group C match and silence the majority of the 18,543 crowd at Komaba Stadium.

JEF United Ichihara stormed to the top of the group with an emphatic 4-0 win at home to Shimizu S-Pulse, Takamatsu's Olympic teammate Yuki Abe wrapping up the scoring just before the hour.

In Group A, defending J. League champion Yokohama F. Marinos were left looking for their first win of the season after a 0-0 draw away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima while Kentaro Hayashi salvaged a late point for Tokyo Verdy in a 1-1 draw at Cerezo Osaka.

Brazilian striker Ueslei, last season's top scorer in the J. League first division, helped himself to a hat trick after just 31 minutes as Nagoya Grampus Eight went top of Group B with a 3-1 win at Gamba Osaka, while Jubilo Iwata was held 0-0 at home to Albirex Niigata.

Last season's beaten finalist Kashima Antlers won 2-1 at FC Tokyo in Group D thanks to first-half goals from Tomoyuki Hirase and Masaki Fukai, while Vissel Kobe won 1-0 at home to Kashiwa Reysol.

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