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Monday, Aug. 21, 2006

Abe's strike lifts FC Tokyo

CHIBA (Kyodo) Substitute Yoshiro Abe ensured a winning start for new manager Hisao Kuramata with a last-gasp strike as FC Tokyo beat JEF United Chiba 4-3 in a pulsating encounter in the J. League first division on Sunday.

News photo
Oita Trinita's Shota Matsuhashi celebrates after scoring in the 17th minute of Sunday's game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Hiroshima Big Arch. KYODO PHOTO

Chiba raced into a two-goal lead but Brazilian Lucas set the stage for a remarkable turnaround with his 12th goal of the season and Shingo Akamine and Naohiro Ishikawa both struck to put the Gasmen 3-2 in front in a see-saw affair at Fukuda Denshi Arena.

Naotake Hanyu looked like he had come to JEF's rescue with a sweetly-struck equalizer in the 85th minute but Abe completed a dramatic win when poked home in the dying embers.

Chiba made a dream start when Yuki Abe, who scored his first goal for Japan in an Asian Cup qualifier in midweek, got on the end of a Mario Haas corner to head his side into a sixth-minute lead.

Chiba fans had barely finished celebrating that goal when Masataka Sakamoto made it 2-0 with an exquisite chip that Yoichi Doi could only watch sail over his head and into the back of the net.

But Lucas ignited the comeback in the 17th minute and Akamine turned to wrong foot Chiba keeper Tomonori Tateishi at his near post before Ishikawa swung the game Tokyo's way by burying a shot into Tateishi's right-hand corner with 14 minutes remaining.

"JEF is a team that never stops running but we gave as good as we got for the whole 90 minutes and kept chipping away at them even after they had equalized," said Ishikawa.

Tokyo sacked Brazilian Gallo, the club's first foreign manager, after he failed to live up to expectations and named Kuramata as new manager on Tuesday. Kuramata, 47, had served as assistant coach and coach for Tokyo's Under-18 team.

Tokyo's win puts them in 11th in the table, some 15 points adrift of leader Gamba Osaka while Chiba dropped to seventh.

In the day's other game, Sanfrecce Hiroshima failed to distance itself from the relegation zone after suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Oita Trinita, Shota Matsuhashi hitting the winner in the 17th minute at Big Arch.

Oita improved to 30 points from 18 games while Hiroshima remains just two points clear of 16th-placed Kyoto Purple Sanga.

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