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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004

FC Tokyo bags Nabisco Cup

FC Tokyo defeated holders Urawa Reds 4-2 in a dramatic penalty shootout on Wednesday to win the final of the J. League Nabisco Cup and claim its first-ever trophy. The teams had played to a 0-0 stalemate after extra time.

News photo
FC Tokyo midfielder Kelly (left) contests a header with Urawa Reds defender Marcus Tulio and goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi during the first half of their J. League Nabisco Cup final on Wednesday at Tokyo's National Stadium. FC Tokyo won 4-2 on penalties to win its first Nabisco Cup title.

Japan international midfielder Akira Kaji struck the decisive penalty after Yoichi Doi had saved Nobuhisa Yamada's spot-kick to give FC Tokyo a hard-fought victory. FC Tokyo had had defender Jean sent off after half an hour at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Urawa dominated much of the game played in front of a bumper holiday crowd of over 52,000 but was unable to find a way past man-of-the-match Doi and his resilient defenders.

"It was always going to be difficult for us after having Jean sent off and I was satisfied with the fact that the players managed to get as far as a penalty shootout," said FC Tokyo manager Hiromi Hara.

"And the fact that our victory was against the Reds was all the more pleasing for me," added Hara, who managed Urawa in 1998-1999.

In a scrappy opening period, neither team was able to stamp its authority on the game and the only real chance fell to Urawa after quarter of an hour.

Makoto Hasebe threaded a ball through to Alessandro Santos after good work from Yuichiro Nagai but the Japan winger wastefully fired his shot wide.

Tokyo's defense kept Urawa's league-leading goalscorer Emerson and strike-partner Tatsuya Tanaka comfortably under wraps but the Gasmen were reduced to 10 men when Jean picked up his second yellow card after bringing down Emerson.

The game started to open up after the interval, however, and Urawa again went close to breaking the deadlock 11 minutes after the break when Brazilian Emerson found Nagai after a weaving run but the latter's angled drive was well blocked by Doi.

The jet-heeled Emerson could have opened the scoring moments later but missed the target under pressure while at the other end Tanaka denied Teruyuki Moniwa with a goal-line clearance.

Urawa turned up the heat in the final stages of normal time and Tanaka almost snatched victory when his header came back off the post.

Doi denied Emerson and Tanaka with a superb double save and was again on hand to turn a point-blank header from Emerson over the crossbar before his heroics helped FC Tokyo hold on for the win.

Urawa manager Guido Buchwald was left lamenting his side's lack of a cutting edge in front of goal but said he is confident that his players can maintain their league form and go on to win the second-stage title.

"We could not score any goals so we could not win the game. In the second half we played well and had lots of chances that my players would normally have scored.

"But we are seven points clear at the top of the table with four games to go. We have three more home games so I think we will be OK.

"The players only have two days to recover from 120 minutes of football and I have to try to lift them for the next game against Shimizu S-Pulse," said the German.

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The Japan Times

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