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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010

Jubilo's Maeda strikes twice in thrilling Nabisco Cup final triumph

Staff writer

Jubilo Iwata came back from the dead to claim their first trophy in seven years with a breathless 5-3 extra-time win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Nabisco Cup final on Wednesday.

News photo
Battle in extra time: Jubilo Iwata forward Ryoichi Maeda (18) scores the team's fifth goal in the 109th minute against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Nabisco Cup final on Wednesday at Tokyo's National Stadium. Jubilo won 5-3 after extra time. KYODO PHOTO

Sanfrecce looked to be on the verge of their first-ever piece of silverware when goals from Tadanari Lee and Satoru Yamagishi either side of halftime canceled out Keisuke Funatani's 36th-minute opener at National Stadium, but Jubilo striker Ryoichi Maeda scrambled home a loose ball with two minutes remaining to send the match into extra time.

Minoru Suganuma and Ryohei Yamazaki then put Jubilo two goals ahead in a breakneck first period that ended with Tomoaki Makino pulling one back for Sanfrecce with a brilliant free kick, before man-of-the-match Maeda restored Jubilo's advantage and set the seal on one of the most remarkable finals in the competition's history.

There was still enough time for goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi to save a Makino penalty with the last kick of the match, and Jubilo manager Masaaki Yanagishita had barely recovered by the time he emerged from the celebrations.

"We conceded early in the second half but we continued to play the game at our pace, and I always had the feeling that we could get one back," Yanagishita said. "Having so many of our fans here today helped the players and allowed them to express themselves.

"Watching from the bench we were saying to each other how good Maeda was. He never stops moving, and even at the end of 120 minutes he looked like he could have kept playing forever."

Jubilo grew in confidence as the first half progressed, and it was little surprise when the Shizuoka side took the lead. Funatani snapped up a botched clearance from goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa to feed Maeda on the right, and the striker returned the favor to pick out his teammate at the back post.

Sanfrecce's response was not pretty, but it was enough to get back on level terms. Winger Mihael Mikic launched a run at the Jubilo defense, and Lee met the Croatian's cross with a scuffed shot that had just enough to squirm past a baffled Kawaguchi.

Minutes after halftime, Sanfrecce took the lead. Kazuyuki Morisaki released Yamagishi down the left wing with a defense-splitting pass, and the 27-year-old responded with a crisp finish.

Norihiro Nishi and substitute Suganuma then wasted chances to restore parity, but just as it looked like Sanfrecce had the title in the bag, up popped Maeda. Nishikawa could only parry a goalbound Daisuke Nasu header from a corner, and Maeda reacted first to give Jubilo new life.

"It was hard, but everyone kept working," Maeda said. "We knew we had no time to slack off."

Sanfrecce's Yojiro Takahagi rattled the crossbar before Nishikawa denied Kota Ueda with a magnificent save at the other end as extra time began, but the action was just getting started.

First Suganuma put Jubilo ahead when he redirected Nasu's header into the net, then Yamazaki extended the advantage after surging into the box two minutes later. Makino ended a dizzying 15-minute half with a booming free kick from distance, but Maeda would not be upstaged, picking up the ball down the left before lifting the ball over Nishikawa courtesy of a deflection.

Kawaguchi then put the icing on the cake with his last-second penalty stop, sparking celebrations from the Jubilo fans and soul-searching among the Hiroshima players.

"It's very difficult to talk after a defeat like that," Sanfrecce manager Mihailo Petrovic said. "The players were nervous today because they hadn't been in this position before, but that couldn't be helped. I'm sure everyone saw a wonderful game. Somebody had to lose, and today it was Sanfrecce."

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