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Monday, Jan. 3, 2005

Verdy lifts Emperor's Cup to end title drought

Goals in each half from Kazunori Iio and Kazuki Hiramoto ended Tokyo Verdy's eight-year title drought as Ossie Ardiles' men beat holder Jubilo Iwata 2-1 in the Emperor's Cup final on Saturday, despite playing half the match with 10 men.

News photo
Members of Tokyo Verdy celebrate a goal by Kazuki Hiramoto in the Emperor's Cup final at Tokyo's National Stadium. Verdy beat Jubilo Iwata 2-1.

Iio bundled home the opener after 35 minutes at Tokyo's National Stadium but Iwata was given hope when Yoshiyuki Kobayashi was sent off for Verdy on the stroke of halftime.

However, Iwata was unable to make its numerical advantage pay off and Hiramoto grabbed a second shortly after halftime.

Norihiro Nishi pulled one back late but Verdy held on to claim its first trophy since winning the Emperor's Cup as Verdy Kawasaki against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on New Year's Day in 1997.

"I am really happy with what my players did. The attitude was tremendous," said Verdy manager Ardiles.

"The second half was always going to be very difficult for us to survive but we tried to organize the team as best we could. I think we defended quite well and got a goal on one counter-attack, so I am happy."

Iwata enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges on a crisp afternoon but it was Verdy that could have been up two goals early.

Hiramoto scooped over the bar from close range after nine minutes and saw a downward header from Takahito Soma's free-kick go over again in the 30th minute.

But five minutes later Verdy made the breakthrough with Hiramoto involved again.

The 23-year-old striker met Daigo Kobayashi's free kick with a diving header and when the ball came back off the post, Iio was on hand to prod home the rebound, sparking jubilant scenes on the Verdy bench.

Iwata came roaring back and Rodrigo Gral forced Yoshinari Takagi into an awkward save before Takashi Fukunishi saw a far-post header go inches wide.

Verdy was reduced to 10 men when Kobayashi was given his second yellow and a red after bringing down Fukunishi.

Despite the handicap, Verdy pushed for a second goal and was rewarded when Hiramoto beat two defenders before planting a well-taken shot beyond the despairing dive of Yohei Sato.

Nishi bundled home after a long spell of Iwata pressure to set up a tense finale, but Verdy stood fast to claim victory.

"It was always going to be tough for us after conceding the first goal but I'm pleased with the effort," said Iwata manager Masakuni Yamamoto.



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