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Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011

Narazaki saves day for Grampus in Xerox Super Cup

Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — Goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki lived up to his billing as reigning J. League player of the year with three shootout saves to lead Nagoya Grampus past Kashima Antlers 3-1 on penalties to win the Xerox Super Cup after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

News photo
In position: Nagoya Grampus goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki stops a penalty shot in the shootout against Kashima Antlers on Saturday in the Xerox Super Cup. KYODO PHOTO

Narazaki denied Daiki Iwamasa, Alex and Toru Araiba from the spot after Takuya Nozawa had canceled out Takahiro Masukawa's 54th-minute opener at Nissan Stadium, striking an early psychological blow for the league champion over one of its most dangerous rivals before the new season begins next weekend.

Narazaki also denied Nozawa a second goal with a stretching fingertip save five minutes from time, leaving Nagoya manager Dragan Stojkovic in no doubt as to the 34-year-old's value.

"Talking about Narazaki is very easy," Stojkovic said. "He is the best goalkeeper in Japan. He is a goalkeeper who has huge quality, confidence, experience, and not only the penalty kicks but during the game he was absolutely great.

"Finally he stopped three penalties, which was amazing. He was the hero today."

Narazaki, who caught and held Alex's powerfully struck spot kick, played down his role in typically unassuming style.

"Saving the penalties was a bonus," he said. "The main thing was that we won the trophy."

Stojkovic, meanwhile, was happy to lay down a marker with Grampus heading into the new campaign as defending champions for the first time in the club's history.

"It's always a good feeling when you win the game," he said. "It doesn't matter how — during regular time or after penalty kicks. The game was interesting, and very important for both teams that there were no injuries."

Both sides had chances to break the deadlock in an open first half, with Yuya Osako cracking the best of them against the crossbar after cutting inside Hayuma Tanaka and letting fly with a fierce shot.

Nozawa went close when he wriggled free of Masukawa minutes after the interval, but the beaten defender would not have to wait long to get revenge. New Grampus signing Jungo Fujimoto flighted a free kick into the Kashima box, and Masukawa jumped highest to head home the opener.

Osako wasted an opportunity to draw level when he slashed a shot over the bar soon after, but Nozawa made no mistake when Antlers were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box in the 66th minute. Not even the full wingspan of a diving Narazaki could keep out Nozawa's sublime effort, and the goalkeeper could do nothing but watch as the ball nestled inside his near post.

Oliveira brought on new 190-cm Brazilian striker Carlao as Kashima went in search of another, but it was Nozawa who went closest when he drew a save from Narazaki with a shot bound for the same corner he had hit earlier.

Instead the match went straight to penalties, and after Josh Kennedy had missed Nagoya's opening kick, Narazaki took over.

"We played as we intended to and controlled the game," Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira said. "We made chances, Osako hit the bar and Narazaki made some good saves. We created more chances than Grampus and it wasn't a question of what we did wrong.

"But one worry from last year is that we were not always able to take the chances we made, and there was some evidence of that today. That is something we will need to address."

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