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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Osako's late heroics lift Antlers over Ardija

Staff writer

SAITAMA — Teenage substitute Yuya Osako scored with his first touch less than a minute after coming off the bench to give Kashima Antlers a 1-0 win over Omiya Ardija on Saturday.

News photo
Winning touch: Yuya Osako scores in the 83rd minute to give Kashima Antlers a 1-0 win over Omiya Ardija on Saturday in Saitama. KYODO PHOTO

The J. League champions dominated the match at Nack5 Stadium but struggled to find a way through a resolute Omiya defense, and looked to be headed for their second straight draw after being held by Kyoto Sanga last weekend.

But there was still time for one last throw of the dice as Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira brought on Osako for Shinzo Koroki in the 82nd minute, and the 19-year-old responded by sweeping home Marquinhos' cross for the winner.

"Koroki and Marquinhos work a lot for the team, in defense as well as attack, so at a moment like that it's better to have a player who is 100 percent fresh than one who is tired," Oliveira said. "But we deserved to win last week much more than we deserved to win today. Omiya played better than Sanga."

Osako is starting his second season as a professional after causing a stir with Kagoshima Josei High at the national high school tournament last January, but has found his chances hard to come by with Koroki and 2008 J. League player of the year Marquinhos barring his way.

Oliveira nonetheless tipped the teenager to force his way into Takeshi Okada's World Cup squad last year, and the Brazilian felt no need to change his tune with Okada in attendance on Saturday.

"He is young, strong and intelligent, so maybe," Oliveira said. "He understands that we have Marquinhos and Koroki and they are high-level players. He is growing, developing, and he has already had some opportunities. Today gives him the motivation to keep going and try to become a better player."

Antlers were forced into an early substitution when Yasushi Endo replaced the injured Fellype Gabriel in the fifth minute, but the change did nothing to disrupt the visitors' rhythm as Marquinhos and Daiki Iwamasa both forced Omiya goalkeeper Takashi Takano into smart reaction saves.

Koroki was guilty of a horrible miss as Antlers extended their control of the match into the second half, but it took another intervention from Takano to rescue the home side when a careless Yuki Fukaya backpass almost let in Marquinhos moments later.

The Brazilian then fired wide after running rings around the Omiya defense, but just as it looked like the home side's good fortune might last the full 90 minutes, Osako swooped with the faintest of touches to redirect Marquinhos' low right-wing cross.

"It's the second game we've lost in a row, but we were playing the champions and I'm happy with the concentration and spirit we showed," said Omiya manager Chang Woe Ryong. "That said, football is a game of skill, and Antlers have got more of that than we have.

"I'm sure we'll have more of a chance when we get our injured players back. Until then, we'll just have to make do."

Elsewhere in the J. League, Shunsuke Nakamura scored his first goal since returning to Yokohama F. Marinos to light the fuse for a stunning 4-0 rout of Kawasaki Frontale. Koji Yamase struck twice to put Marinos 3-0 ahead before halftime, before Yuzo Kurihara put the finishing touches to another impressive win for Kazushi Kimura's side after the break.

Hisato Sato scored twice as Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Shonan Bellmare 3-1, Eddy Bosnar gave Shimizu S-Pulse a 1-0 win over Vissel Kobe, and Kyoto Sanga ended promoted Vegalta Sendai's unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 victory at Nishikyogoku Stadium.

Gamba Osaka and Albriex Niigata drew 0-0, while in the day's late game FC Tokyo and Cerezo Osaka played to a scoreless draw.

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