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Monday, Nov. 3, 2008

Antlers through after Emperor's Cup scare

KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Kashima Antlers dodged a bullet to kick off their defense of the Emperor's Cup with a 3-0 penalty shootout win over amateur side Kokushikan University in the fourth round on Sunday.

Kokushikan shocked the J. League champion by twice taking the lead through goals from Masaru Takahashi and Kota Amano, but Marquinhos equalized from the spot in the 75th minute and the tie finished locked at 2-2 after extra time.

Kashima's experience told in the shootout as Kokushikan's first three penalty takers all had their efforts saved by Hitoshi Sogahata before Danilo converted the winning spot kick for Oswaldo Oliveira's men.

Kashima will face either JEF United Chiba or Shimizu S-Pulse, who meet Wednesday, in the next round.

In an absorbing encounter at Kashima Stadium, Kokushikan should have taken the lead on 16 minutes through Ryuto Otake but Sogahata reacted smartly to block the midfielder's close-range shot.

Marcinho was guilty of a dreadful miss at the other end after being set up by Shinzo Koroki, and Kashima was punished when Kokushikan broke the deadlock on 39 minutes.

Nobuaki Kojima capitalized on a poor clearance from Sogahata to feed Takahashi who let fly to beat the Kashima keeper with a 25-meter screamer into the top corner.

However, the visitors' joy proved short-lived and Kashima drew level when Danilo glanced home a free kick from Masaki Chugo two minutes before the break.

Kokushikan refused to lie down, though, and went back in front just before the hour mark when Amano hammered home Yoshifumi Kashiwa's drag-back only for Kashima to equalize with a dubiously awarded penalty.

Marquinhos went down under a challenge from goalkeeper Kenji Yamada and the league-leading Brazilian marksman dusted himself off to send Yamada the wrong way from the spot.

Kokushikan went desperately close to winning it in the dying seconds of normal time but Yuki Matsumoto was left to rue what might have been after dragging his shot just wide of the post.

"We had chances to win it but wasted them," said Kokushikan captain Yuto Takeoka. "Conceding after twice taking the lead perhaps showed out naivety."

Last year's runnerup, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, was the only team outside the top flight from Sunday's games to advance to the next round after a 1-0 win over Tokyo Verdy.

Issei Takayanagi snatched the decider late on for the second-division champion to set up a meeting with either Kawasaki Frontale or Montedio Yamagata, who play Monday.

In the day's other matches, Matsumoto Yamaga FC was knocked out after being hammered 8-0 at Vissel Kobe, Keisuke Kurihara grabbing a 12-minute hat-trick, while fellow non-leaguer Tochigi SC was beaten 3-1 at Jubilo Iwata.

Nagoya Grampus, Omiya Ardija and Kashiwa Reysol all recorded 1-0 wins over second-division opposition while Albirex Niigata, Yokohama F. Marinos and Kyoto Sanga also advanced to the last 16.



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