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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

Avispa, Vissel battle to draw

KOBE (Kyodo) Yuichi Mizutani produced some inspired goalkeeping to help Avispa Fukuoka hold second-division Vissel Kobe 0-0 away on Wednesday in the first leg of a playoff for a place in the J. League's top flight next season.

News photo
Vissel Kobe forward Park Kang Jo (left) battles Avispa Fukuoka defender Alex for control of the ball during the first leg of their promotion/relegation playoff on Wednesday at Kobe Wing Stadium. The match ended in a scoreless draw. KYODO PHOTO

Mizutani pulled off two super saves in the second half at Kobe Wing Stadium as Fukuoka, battling for its first-division live, held on to take a clean sheet back to Hakata-no-Mori Stadium for the return leg on Saturday.

Kobe, which blew the chance for automatic promotion on the final day of the league season after losing to Vegalta Sendai, should have got its nose in front after producing the only chance of a cagey first half.

South Korean livewire Park Kang Jo burst into the box and picked out Yusuke Kondo with a square ball only for the 22-year-old striker to scuff horribly wide.

Kondo's miss almost proved costly for the home side but Kiyokazu Kudo missed an equally promising chance in the 56th minute after being put clean through by Kazunori Iio.

Kobe, which twice had goals ruled out for offside, gradually took control but could not find a way past Mizutani, who in the 62nd minute tipped over a Hiroto Mogi shot that had goal stamped all over it and then denied Kondo with another great stop moments later.

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