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Thursday, June 2, 2005

Del Piero's goal helps Juventus edge past fighting Marinos


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA -- Juventus beat Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 in a well-contested friendly match at Nissan Stadium on Wednesday, Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero scoring for the visitor with a left-foot shot in the 42nd minute.

Juve had dominated up to that point in the match, but further goals for the Italians failed to materialize. Instead, to the Yokohama players' credit, they came back at the visitor, enjoying an equal amount of possession and chances in the second half.

For Marinos manager Takeshi Okada it was chance to test his players against the best. He was fairly pleased with the result.

"In the first half we couldn't do anything, but in the second half it was better," Okada said.

"It went quite well, but we couldn't find an adequate response to the goal."

Juve coach Fabio Capello was impressed by Marinos' fight.

"We had a real game tonight. Yokohama Marinos are a good team. They were hard to attack and dangerous on the counter," the Italian said.

Midfielder Koji Yamase was the liveliest of Yokohama's players, the 23-year-old midfielder excelling in formidable midfield company.

Some Yokohama players fared less well. Tatsuhiko Kubo, recently returned from a lengthy absence due to injury, suffered the most. Up against the classy center-half pairing of Lillian Thuram and Jonathan Zebina, the international forward lost out in almost all his aerial battles.

The newly crowned Italian champion played a near full-strength team, which was appreciated by the 30,230-strong crowd.

Del Piero and Pavel Nedved were Juve's stand-out players, both putting in skillful and committed displays.

The Juventus goal came just before the break. Gianluca Pessotto floated in a cross from the left, and with Ryuji Kawai misjudging the flight, Del Piero pounced on the loose ball to fire past 'keeper Tatsuya Enomoto from six meters.

"It was a tough game that we certainly didn't want to lose," Del Piero said. "But it was enjoyable, too"

Nakata hopeful

ABU DHABI (Kyodo) Hidetoshi Nakata is hoping to solve Japan's crisis in front of goal and end his own personal drought in the Asian champion's crucial World Cup qualifier away to Bahrain on Friday.

The Italian-based midfielder is set to start in a preferred attacking role in a 3-6-1 formation in the Group B clash in Manama as misfiring Japan looks to boost its chances of advancing to next year's finals in Germany.

Nakata has endured a frustrating season at Fiorentina, and although his side secured its Serie A status with victory over Brescia at the weekend, he finished the season without scoring for the first time in his 10-year professional career.

"As you know, I prefer to play forward more than defend and my purpose is to get a goal," Nakata said after the final day of Japan's training camp in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

"I think maybe people think a draw is OK but for me definitely we have to win the next match," he said. "Everything (comes down to the game) against Bahrain and if we win we will take a big step toward the World Cup."

Nakata, a fluent English speaker, has welcomed the chance to be involved against Bahrain having had to warm the Fiorentina bench for the last two months and is confident Japan can bag three precious points in the Persian Gulf.

"Actually I have been very good physically," Nakata said. "The last two months I was very good and I don't know why I couldn't play (for Fiorentina). But I am happy to play in this match and I'm sure we are going to win."

Nakata, who played his first game for the national team after a year sidelined with injury in the 2-1 loss away to Iran in March, looked sharp in his first practice session after joining up with the squad Monday night.

His return provides a much-needed boost for Zico's men, whose preparations for the Bahrain clash and their meeting with North Korea in neutral Bangkok on June 8 were dealt a blow after shock 1-0 defeats by Peru and the United Arab Emirates at the Kirin Cup.

Likely to be playing a supporting role for either Kashima Antlers striker Takayuki Suzuki or Messina's Atsushi Yanagisawa, Nakata said he was surprised about the Kirin Cup debacle but believes it has provided Japan with a good lesson.

"Of course I was surprised but it doesn't matter for me," Nakata said. "Maybe the players recognized where to improve and that's the most important thing for the next match."

Japan is currently second in Group B with six points after suffering a 2-1 loss to group leader Iran and lucky home wins against North Korea and Bahrain. It leaves the United Arab Emirates for Bahrain on Wednesday.



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