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Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009

FC Tokyo earns Nabisco Cup title

Staff writer

FC Tokyo claimed its first silverware in five years with a hard-fought but well-deserved 2-0 win over favorites Kawasaki Frontale in the Nabisco Cup final on Tuesday.

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Big moment: FC Tokyo midfielder Takuji Yonemoto celebrates his 23rd-minute goal with teammate Naotake Hanyu during the Nabisco Cup final on Tuesday at National Stadium. FC Tokyo beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-0. KYODO PHOTO

Teenage midfielder Takuji Yonemoto profited from an uncharacteristic error by national team goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to put Tokyo ahead in the 23rd minute, before Sota Hirayama headed in the second on the hour mark in front of a crowd of 44,308 at National Stadium.

The goals gave the capital city club only its second-ever trophy, after winning the same competition in 2004, but left J. League leaders Frontale still waiting for their breakthrough success having fallen in the final for the third time.

"Everyone expected it to be a hard task, and Frontale are clearly stronger than us," said Tokyo manager Hiroshi Jofuku. "But we got to the final as a team. We drew strength from the support of the players who didn't take part today, and this was truly a victory for the whole squad.

"We didn't sit back, and we showed that we can win against Frontale. This is a huge source of confidence having lost to them twice already in the league, and it shows that we have met those issues head on. I don't want to be satisfied with this result. Today's win is another step forward for us."

Hirayama missed an early chance to put Tokyo ahead when he blazed over from close range, minutes before Shuichi Gonda pulled off a fantastic save to deny Frontale's Renatinho.

The goalkeeper again did well to keep out Hiroyuki Taniguchi's angled shot in the 20th minute, but the same could not be said of Juninho after the Brazilian's effort from the rebound failed to even hit the target with Gonda prone on the ground.

Kawasaki's mistakes seemed to be spreading, and Yonemoto seized the moment in the 23rd minute. The 18-year-old let fly with a shot from distance that looked hopeful at best, but Kawashima responded with a weak parry that failed to stop the ball continuing its path into the net.

Shingo Akamine then squandered an opportunity to double the lead with an ill-judged lob, but Hirayama gave Tokyo one hand on the cup 15 minutes after the break.

The striker put the finishing touches to a breathless surge forward, rising to meet Tatsuya Suzuki's deep cross and heading back across the already-committed Kawashima.

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Cash payout: Takuji Yonemoto had plenty of reasons to smile after earning the 1 million yen MVP award in the Nabisco Cup final on Tuesday. KYODO PHOTO

Gonda blocked a Kengo Nakamura drive as Frontale proceeded to throw caution to the wind, but Tokyo still had attacking intentions. Suzuki hit the post with a wicked curling shot that would have put the icing on the cake, and even though Chong headed against the bar in a nervy final few minutes, Tokyo defended solidly until the final whistle.

That rugged discipline was in marked contrast to Frontale's unwaveringly technical approach, and Kawasaki manager Takashi Sekizuka could only lament his players' lack of pragmatism after the game.

"We didn't have the composure we needed after going behind," he said. "That's when our weaknesses were exposed. We needed to play the simple ball instead of making pretty triangles, and we weren't breaking through at the finish.

"It's not enough just to have strong players. In situations like this we need to have the mental toughness to be able to cope."

Becks deal reached

MILAN , Italy (AP) David Beckham will return to AC Milan on loan in January after the Italian club reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.

The England midfielder played for Milan for six months in the first half of the year. He scored two goals in 18 games and has won back his place on England's national team.

"I need to give myself the best chance possible to make the World Cup squad and playing for Milan on loan will help me to do that," Beckham said in a statement. "I genuinely enjoyed my time at Milan and I look forward to meeting the players and staff again."

AC Milan and the Galaxy came to an agreement Monday after weeks of negotiations.

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