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Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006

Osim gets taste of victory after Abe fires late winner


Staff writer

CHIBA --Home, sweet home. Finally.

News photo
Naotake Hanyu of JEF United Chiba collides with Kawasaki Frontale goalkeeper Takashi Aizawa during their Nabisco League Cup semifinal, second-leg tie on Wednesday at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba Prefecture. KYODO PHOTOS

Yuki Abe's last-gasp extra-time penalty gave Amar Osim his first victory at Fukuda Denshi Arena as JEF United coach and sent the Nabisco Cup holders past Kawasaki Frontale and into the final again on Wednesday evening.

Abe smashed home his spot-kick as a shootout loomed after referee Yuichi Nishimura ruled that Yusuke Mori had handled the ball in the dying seconds and JEF won the semifinal second leg 3-2 to advance 5-4 on aggregate.

Coach Osim tasted success at home for the first time since he took over from new Japan national team coach and father, Ivica, in July.

"This year we have played four times against Kawasaki, and most of those games have been decided at the death," Osim said. "It just happened that today, it went our way.

"In the J. League, we haven't been winning at home, but we have in the Nabisco Cup. But I'm still pleased."

JEF will play Kashima Antlers in the final at Tokyo's National Stadium on Nov. 3 after Paulo Autuori's men advanced past Yokohama F. Marinos 2-2 on the away-goals rule in Wednesday's other semifinal second-leg clash.

The unfashionable Chiba team will be hoping for a repeat of last year's final, when Seiichiro Maki scored the winning penalty in a shootout to beat Gamba Osaka for JEF's first-ever trophy.

News photo
JEF United's Satoru Yamagishi reacts after scoring his second goal of the day during the second leg of the Nabisco Cup semifinal round against Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday at Fukuda Denshi Arena.

JEF's hopes of building on its cup success in this year's J. League has come a cropper after a wretched run of form at home, winning just twice in 11 league games under the two Osims.

Osim the Younger has presided over six defeats in his team's last eight league games, meaning any hopes of a title challenge has long since fizzled out.

Not a dazzling start to his career as a J. League coach, but JEF had still managed to get to the Nabisco semifinals.

The Chiba team's hopes of reaching National Stadium were boosted by the inclusion of Maki, Abe and Naotake Hanyu against Frontale, all missing from JEF's first-leg lineup because of national team commitments.

Frontale was missing Kazuki Ganaha in the first leg, and the national team striker also returned, and in form after scoring twice in Sunday's 4-3 loss to Jubilo Iwata in the league.

It was JEF, though, which got off to a flyer on two minutes when Hanyu threaded a wonderful through ball into Masataka Sakamoto's path and the midfielder slid the ball home.

Satoru Yamagishi put JEF 2-0 up on 16 minutes when he met a deep right-wing cross from Abe and steered the ball past 'keeper Takashi Aizawa.

Unaccustomed to being in such command, though, JEF failed to look at all comfortable defending the lead and resorted to time wasting as early as at the tail end of the first-half.

Magnum started Frontale's comeback on 56 minutes with a rasping left-foot shot from 25 meters that flew past debutant 'keeper Masahiro Okamoto, and Juninho leveled the score seven minutes later after being put through by Kengo Nakamura.

And with the game dying a death in extra time as both teams tired, it looked as though penalties were inevitable.

In JEF's final attack, though, referee Nishimura pointed to the spot after controversially deciding Mori had handled in the area.

Abe sparked delirious scenes among the JEF supporters with a powerful penalty and left the Frontale players raging at the match officials after the final whistle blew moments later.

In Wednesday's other semifinal second-leg match, Kashima Antlers took a 1-0 first-leg lead to Nissan Stadium, but Marinos quickly leveled to tie.

But a crucial away goal by Kashima's Atsushi Yanagisawa left Yokohama with a mountain to climb, and despite Marinos going ahead again on 82 minutes, the Antlers held on to go through courtesy of the away-goals rule.



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