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Monday, Oct. 10, 2011

Shibasaki leads Antlers past Grampus


NAGOYA — Nineteen-year-old midfielder Gaku Shibasaki scored his first career goal to fire Kashima Antlers into the Nabisco Cup final after an extra-time 2-1 victory away to J.League champions Nagoya Grampus on Sunday.

Yuya Osako opened the scoring early on and Kashima was in total control until Marcus Tulio Tanaka grabbed an equalizer 10 minutes from the end of normal time at Mizuho Stadium.

But Shibasaki took a pass from substitute Masashi Motoyama and struck from a tight angle in the 107th minute to set Kashima up with a meeting against Urawa Reds, 2-1 winners over league leaders Gamba Osaka, in the Oct. 29 showcase final.

"I would have taken my first career goal in any match and in any shape or form but obviously I am delighted to score (in this one)," said Shibasaki.

Urawa took control of the day's second semifinal at Saitama Stadium 2002 with first-half goals from Tsukasa Umesaki and Sergio Escudero, before Shohei Otsuka replied with an injury-time consolation for Gamba.

Both Kashima and Nagoya fielded weakened sides due to injuries and the absence of players on national team duty.

Nagoya were without Jungo Fujimoto and Australia striker Josh Kennedy, while Keiji Tamada and Danilson both missed out through injury.

Chikashi Masuda, along with Fujimoto, is with the Japan squad in Osaka for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Tajikistan and Kashima was also missing Daiki Iwamasa, who picked up a thigh injury in the 3-2 quarterfinal win over Yokohama F Marinos, moving Takeshi Aoki into central defense to plug the gap.

Aoki's first contribution was to concede a free kick that Nagoya very nearly capitalized on with less than two minutes gone, but it was Kashima that went in front on 10 minutes when Mitsuo Ogasawara robbed Keiji Yoshimura and crossed for Osako to steer home.

Kashima could have easily gone into the interval three goals to the good as they strolled in the autumn sunshine, Shinzo Koroki shooting wastefully at Seigo Narazaki on 12 minutes.

Nagoya was time and again let off the hook after giving the ball away cheaply in midfield and Koroki again went close with a shot that was hooked off the line by Tulio in time added on at the end of the first period.

Narazaki had come to Nagoya's rescue on more than one occasion in the first half and the reigning J.League Player of the Year produced two fabulous saves from ever-dangerous Koroki as Kashima continued to dictate the pace after the break.

Substitute Ryota Isomura went close to pulling Nagoya level on 77 minutes, and the home side finally equalized against the run of play when Tulio popped up to head in Yoshizumi Ogawa's cross to send the game to extra time.

But Shibasaki struck and Nagoya's hopes of a comeback were quashed when Isomura was handed his second yellow card and sent off five minutes from the end of extra time.

"We are happy firstly because we played very convincingly. We controlled the game and created more than 10 good situations to score and I think the game should have been decided in 90 minutes," Kashima manager Oswaldo Oliveira told Kyodo News, adding his was delighted for Shibasaki to open his account.

"This player is our hope. He is still very young and has a long way to go but I think he will succeed because of his personality. He is player that is not affected by the atmosphere."

Nagoya boss Dragan Stojkovic admitted that Kashima deserved to be in the final.

"They deserved to win. For the first 60 minutes of regular time we were watching how they played and I was very impressed by Kashima. I couldn't recognize my team. I don't know what happened."

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