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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kakitani double fuels Cerezo's win over Frontale


OSAKA — Yoichiro Kakitani grabbed a second-half double as Cerezo Osaka took a big step towards qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Nabisco Cup with a 3-2 win over Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday night.

Victory moved Cerezo to the top of Group A on nine points, with idle Jubilo Iwata second on goal difference with two matches left to play in the first round. Kota Mizunuma struck an 80th-minute winner as Sagan Tosu beat Urawa Reds 2-1 to also improve to nine points in third place while Reds (6) dropped to fifth. Kawasaki, on four points with just one game left, were eliminated. J. League leaders Vegalta Sendai (6) beat last-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1, Takayuki Nakahara bagging a brace for the visitors at Big Arch.

At Kincho Stadium, Cerezo were the more industrious of the two sides in the early exchanges and Branquinho hit the post with a rasping drive on the quarter-hour mark before Yusuke Maruhashi volleyed into the side netting.

The visitors took the lead against the run of play on 30 minutes when Jumpei Kusukami beat Kenya Matsui at his near post with a calm finish, but Cerezo hit back two minutes into the second half, Kempes drilling home a well-taken finish from the edge of the area.

Sloppy defending then allowed Kakitani to put Cerezo 2-1 up in the 58th, the 22-year-old dispossessing Yusuke Tanaka and surging away to clip into Yohei Nishibe's left-hand corner. Kawasaki equalized when Renato slammed home on the rebound after Takuro Yajima's looping shot hit the bar, but Kakitani had the last word, smashing in with four minutes left.

"We showed the will to win right until the end and I am glad we got the victory," said Kakitani. "I knew we could go top if we won and wanted to win whatever the score. I never thought I would score two goals and I am happy with the result. But I can still play better."

In Group B, Kota Sugiyama wrapped up the scoring as Shimizu S-Pulse moved top with a 4-0 win at Consadole Sapporo and holders Kashima Antlers also improved to 12 points but with only a game left, Yuya Osako scoring in a 1-0 win at Albirex Niigata. Omiya Ardjia won 1-0 at home to Vissel Kobe.

The top two in each seven-team group qualify for the quarterfinals, where they will be joined by Japan's four Asian Champions League representatives — J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol, Emperor's Cup holders FC Tokyo, Nagoya Grampus and Gamba Osaka.

The two-leg quarterfinals will be played on July 25 and Aug. 8, with the semis on Sept. 5 and Oct. 13. The final is scheduled for Nov. 3.

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