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Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006

JEF retains Nabisco Cup with win over Antlers


Staff writer

Like father, like son.

News photo
JEF United midfielder Koki Mizuno nets the first goal of the match in the 81st minute of the J. League Nabisco Cup final against Kashima Antlers at Tokyo's National Stadium on Friday afternoon. With the 2-0 win, Chiba grabbed its second straight Cup title. KYODO PHOTO

Coach Amar Osim emulated his father as JEF United Chiba retained the Nabisco Cup on Friday with a 2-0 win over Kashima Antlers.

Late goals from Koki Mizuno and Yuki Abe in the final at Tokyo's National Stadium made sure of a repeat triumph for JEF after Japan national team coach Ivica Osim led the team to its first-ever trophy last year.

Mizuno made the breakthrough on 81 minutes when he flashed a cross-shot from the right past 'keeper Hitoshi Sogahata, before Abe headed in from a corner two minutes later to make sure.

It was the first time a team had successfully defend the Cup in 13 years. Tokyo Verdy achieved the feat in 1993 when called Kawasaki Verdy, at that time clinching the second of three successive league cups.

The victory was all the sweeter for the younger Osim, whose side has struggled since he started as a manager in the J. League after taking over from his father during the season.

"The thing that makes me happiest is that we stuck to our style of soccer," Osim said. "We controlled the game the whole match and I am more pleased about the performance than the result."

Kashima boss Paulo Autuori was upset at missing out on first piece of silverware for his club but said the loss should prove to be a valuable lesson. "It is important that we take something from this game and put it to use in the future so we can win another title," Autuori said

An added bonus for JEF was the receipt of a 100 million yen winner's check, a figure that is allegedly how much Kashima pays Autuori per year for his services, but the experienced Brazilian was outfoxed by the young apprentice on this occasion.

In contrast to Autuori -- who with two Libertadores Cup wins and the World Club Championship seems to have a knack with cup finals -- the 39-year-old Osim is wet behind the ears as a coach.

And with JEF missing defender Ilian Stoyanov and midfielder Nebojsa Krupnikovic through suspension, it was the six-time finalist Antlers, chasing their 10th trophy, who were the pre-match favorites.

A drab first-half with little spark from either of the protagonists was perhaps to be expected.

Neither side has been in scintillating form of late, with Kashima having lost its last four matches, and JEF three of the last four.

Then again, a better indicator of where the trophy might have been heading would have been JEF's sole win in its last four matches -- a 4-0 mauling of the Antlers.

And it was the Chiba team that had the better of things in the first period, even though it lost forward Mario Haas to injury before the half-hour mark.

His replacement, Masataka Sakamoto, set up the best chance of the half on 43 minutes with a whipped-in cross from the left that gave Seiichiro Maki a glorious opportunity to break his goal drought that stretches back to Sept. 23.

The misfiring striker's shot from close range, though, was powder puff weak and easily saved by Sogahata.

Kashima's forward line of Alex Mineiro and Japan World Cup forward Atsushi Yanagisawa, however, were utterly bereft of ideas in the first 45 minutes.

Ex-Sampdoria star Yanagisawa may as well have been back in Italy for all the good he was doing, no matter how much the Antlers' fans tried to rouse him by chanting his name.

With the baby-faced Naotake Hanyu loitering with intent for JEF -- he went close early in the first half after some neat twists and turns -- a goal began to look more and more likely for Osim's men but the half ended in a stalemate.

It was clear that Autuori's halftime remarks were the fillip the Antlers players needed and they emerged a more potent threat.

Alex Mineiro's arching header on 49 minutes went agonizingly past the post, before Takuya Nozawa flashed a right-foot shot across the face of JEF 'keeper Masahiro Okamoto's goal.

Kashima's impish midfielder Masaki Fukai then fed Mineiro only for the Brazilian forward to shoot into the hands of a grateful Okamoto.

The game had turned full tide and it was now it was Antlers who were dominating, although JEF continued to threaten intermittently on the break.

The fans now had a real Cup final on their hands.

The JEF supporters were screaming for a penalty on 73 minutes when it looked as though Maki was pulled down as he attempted to reach a cross from the left, before Yuto Sato's followup seemed to be handled, but the referee waved away the appeals.

Back and forth it went.

Kashima poured forward and Nozawa lashed in a shot destined for the top corner that was clawed away by Okamoto, but JEF came straight back and this time made the breakthrough.

Mizuno, having hitherto contributed little to the spectacle, collected the ball on the right and fired in a brilliant cross-shot past Sogahata.

Two minutes later, JEF made sure of the victory.

A corner was whipped in from the right and Abe, the hat trick hero of JEF's recent win over Kashima, got in front of Masaki Chugo to power home his header.

The double blow triggered a triple substitution from a desperate Autuori, but the contest was over and JEF lifted the cup.

Osim had kept it in the family.

His father would be proud.



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