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Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010

Inui, Cerezo outplay Antlers in big match

Staff writer

KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. — Cerezo Osaka denied Kashima Antlers top spot in the J. League table and leapfrogged the defending champion into second place for good measure with a 1-0 win on Saturday.

News photo
Getting physical: The Antlers' Mitsuo Ogasawara (left) and Cerezo's Takashi Inui vie for the ball during Saturday's game at Kashima Stadium. KYODO PHOTO

Antlers would have overtaken idle league-leader Nagoya Grampus with a win at Kashima Stadium, but instead a 55th-minute goal by Takashi Inui made sure it was Cerezo who ended the day moving up three places from fifth.

Inui's goal capped a fine team performance from last season's J2 runnerup, which has thrived over the summer despite losing star player Shinji Kagawa to Borussia Dortmund after the World Cup.

"Shinji was a big player for us, and his goals and his all-round play were a big loss," said Cerezo manager Levir Culpi. "But this team has been together for a long time and the players know each other well.

"The defenders have good communication, the attacking players combine well, and everyone links together. This team is a real unit."

Kawasaki Frontale missed the chance to pip Cerezo for second after losing 2-1 to Albirex Niigata. Cho Young Cheul joined Nagoya's Josh Kennedy and Gamba Osaka's Shoki Hirai at the top of the scoring chart on 10 after notching both Albirex goals at Big Swan Stadium.

The day, however, belonged to Cerezo and Culpi, who paid special tribute to his opposite number after the game.

"I am very pleased for three reasons," he said. "First of all, we have just beaten the J. League champions, who have won the title three times in a row.

"Secondly, we have beaten the best manager in Japanese football — Oswaldo Oliveira. His knowledge of football in this country is second to none, and I think he should be the next manager of the national team. Third, the players insisted on winning and gave it their all until the final whistle."

Hiroshi Kiyotake almost profited from Inui's guile and movement when he headed the midfielder's cross against the post in the 10th minute, but Inui would not be contained for long.

Ten minutes after the break, Daisuke Takahashi drove down the right wing before feeding Inui bearing down on goal, and the midfielder's shot cannoned off goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata to ricochet into the back of the net.

Kashima substitute Ryuta Sasaki almost had an immediate impact when he replaced Yuya Osako in the 65th minute, raiding down the flank only to see Shinzo Koroki somehow miss the target after connecting with his cross.

But a brilliant late save by goalkeeper Kenya Matsui was typical of Cerezo's rear-guard effort, and Inui almost put the issue beyond doubt as he rattled a free kick against the crossbar with minutes remaining.

Elsewhere in the J. League, Urawa Reds refound their scoring touch in a 4-1 win over Shonan Bellmare, while Ryuji Kawai hit an injury-time winner to lift Yokohama F. Marinos past bottom-placed Kyoto Sanga 2-1.

In the day's other game, Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat struggling FC Tokyo 2-0.

Okubo has surgery

KOBE (Kyodo) Vissel Kobe's World Cup midfielder Yoshito Okubo underwent knee surgery on Saturday and will be sidelined for two months, the relegation-threatened J. League first-division club said.

Okubo, who played in all four of Japan's games at the World Cup this summer, has suffered a meniscus injury on his left knee and his absence comes as a huge blow to a Vissel side hovering just above the drop zone.

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