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Thursday, March 30, 2006

JEF begins cup defense with close win

Staff writer

CHIBA -- JEF United Chiba began its defense of the Nabisco Cup with a 2-1 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Fukuda Denshi Arena on Wednesday.

News photo
Urawa Reds forward Washington (left) and FC Tokyo defender Tatsuya Masushima compete for the ball during their Nabisco Cup group-stage match.

Yuto Sato grabbed the winner in the Group C encounter with eight minutes to go after Naotake Hanyu had opened the scoring for the Chiba side with a fierce strike on three minutes and Sanfrecce had drawn level just after the break with a neat finish from Koji Morisaki.

"Both teams had young sides out tonight, which was good for the fans and the media to see," JEF coach Ivica Osim said.

"We started well with a good goal, but their equalizer showed our weaknesses."

On a chilly Chiba night, both teams were missing key players due to Thursday's Japan-Ecuador international friendly match. Defender Yuichi Komano and forward Hisato Sato were away for Sanfrecce, while JEF was lacking midfielder Yuki Abe and striker Seiichiro Maki.

Maki scored the winning penalty in JEF's Nabisco Cup final shootout victory against Gamba Osaka last November, which gave the unfashionable club its first ever trophy.

Midfielder Hanyu gave JEF the perfect start to this season's Nabisco campaign in the third minute when he collected a Koki Mizuno pass and rifled a left-foot screamer into the roof of the net.

Satoru Yamagishi brought a good save from Sanfrecce's Takashi Shimoda 10 minutes later after a good build up from ex-Gamba Osaka man Nebojsa Krupnikovic and Sato.

With JEF camped in the Sanfrecce half more chances were to bound to come. Sato saw a shot trickle past the post before Yamagishi unleashed a stinging shot from 25 meters that was well saved by Shimoda.

JEF was left to rue a profligate first-half when Sanfrecce drew level on 47 minutes, Morisaki collecting a Beto pass and lashing a shot across Ryo Kushino.

The equalizer gave Sanfrecce fresh impetus, but it was JEF that went closest to going ahead when the lively Krupnikovic's low shot drew a full-stretch save from the Shimoda on the hour mark.

With 10 minutes to go Sato made room for the shot only for Shimoda to frustrate the JEF youth team product once more before Sanfrecce raced up the other end only to see Kazuyuki Morisaki blast over the bar from close range.

Sato, who had gone close a number of times, finally beat the otherwise excellent Shimoda on 82 minutes when made room for himself on the edge of the area and fired a low shot inside Shimoda's right-hand post.

"I was disappointed with the result, but it is a big improvement on our recent performances," Sanfrecce coach Takeshi Ono said. "If we keep playing like that the results will come in the end."

In the other Group C match Albirex Niigata and Shimizu S-Pulse played out an entertaining 3-3 draw.

Meanwhile, in Group A, Urawa Reds beat FC Tokyo 2-0 and Yokohama F. Marinos won 1-0 against Avispa Fukuoka.

In Group B, Kashima Antlers won 4-1 against Oita Trinita, while Kawasaki Frontale won 4-3 away to Kyoto Purple Sanga.

In Group D, Ventforet Kofu won 3-1 away to Nagoya Grampus Eight and Cerezo Osaka edged Jubilo Iwata 1-0.

Elsewhere, in the sole J. League game, Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 3-1.

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