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Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010

Endo's miss helps Antlers top Gamba in Fuji Xerox Super Cup shootout


Staff writer

A rare penalty miss from Yasuhito Endo handed Kashima Antlers the Fuji Xerox Super Cup with a 5-3 shootout win after a 1-1 regulation-time draw on Saturday.

News photo
Dynamic attack: Kashima forward Marquinhos attempts a bicycle kick against Gamba Osaka in the Fuji Xerox Super Cup at National Stadium on Saturday. Antlers won 5-3 on penalties. KYODO PHOTO

Marquinhos gave Kashima a 20th-minute lead in the match between J. League and Emperor's Cup champions at National Stadium, before Akira Kaji wiped out the deficit with a long-range drive in first-half injury time.

But neither side could find the goal to settle the match over 90 minutes, and with no extra time to be played it was left to penalties to separate two teams squaring off in the traditional season curtain-raiser for the second year running.

After Mitsuo Ogasawara had safely dispatched Kashima's first kick of the shootout, regular national team penalty-taker Endo deviated from his usual style and aimed for the top corner, resulting in the only miss of the afternoon and ensuring the trophy stayed in league-champion Kashima's hands.

"We haven't practiced penalty shootouts, but the one player who had been practicing was the one who missed," said Gamba manager Akira Nishino. "It's disappointing to lose, but that's what happens when you can't finish the game off inside 90 minutes."

Antlers routed Gamba 3-0 in last season's encounter, but Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira was happy to claim another win even if the score was less emphatic this time around.

"The difference between winning and losing has a big psychological impact on the team," he said. "Winning is the best medicine for all pains.

"It's still too early to say if we've made a good or bad start. We have new players and there were some problems linking up, but that's inevitable and will take time. If our strikers had been more relaxed today, we could got have got more. Individually, Gamba were better but we had more chances to score."

Both sides had early chances to break the deadlock, with Gamba's Lucas putting the best of them wide after robbing Toru Araiba and surging into the area with less than a minute on the clock.

When the first goal did arrive, however, it came from the penalty spot. Takuya Nozawa sent a free kick into the Gamba box, and referee Yuichi Nishimura had no hesitation when Daiki Iwamasa went down after jostling for position with Cho Jae Jin.

Gamba set about trying to draw level after Marquinhos had dispatched the penalty, and Kaji got the job done with practically the last kick of the first half. The former international let fly with a left-footed drive from the edge of the box, and a deflection off Ogasawara's head sent the ball looping away from Hitoshi Sogahata and into the top corner.

Iwamasa almost directed a Nozawa free kick on target shortly after the restart, and Kaji was denied his second of the afternoon when Shoki Hirai got in the way of his dangerous drive soon after.

Marquinhos skimmed a shot off the crossbar and Gamba's Takashi Usami drew a good save from Sogahata with time running out, but the final chance came and went when Nozawa lashed a shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

"We played well but it takes time to get going at the start of the season," said Nishino. "We've got a week to prepare, and as a team we need to find a way to vary our attacks a bit more. It's not good that the only player who has scored so far is a defender."

Tsukamoto update

SAITAMA (Kyodo) Omiya Ardija defender Taishi Tsukamoto said Saturday he has bone cancer in his right thigh.

"When the doctor told me that I can't play soccer anymore, my mind went blank and I thought I was dreaming," said the teary-eyed 24-year-old at a news conference.

Tsukamoto will undergo surgery next month that involves removing the cancerous bone and replacing it with an artificial bone.

"We have signed a contract with him for this season. He remains a member of Omiya," said club president Seigo Watanabe.

Tsukamoto was found to have the cancer in January after experiencing pain around his right knee since last summer.

"I am aware that a hard battle against cancer and rehabilitation awaits me," said Tsukamoto. "But I want to give hope to those who are in a similar situation. I hope my teammates will play hard in the upcoming season to give me courage."

Tsukamoto joined Omiya in 2008 and made 27 appearances in the last two seasons.



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