Monday, November 3, 2008

Oita Trinita celebrate a first ever title

Oita Trinita fans enjoy their big day out "I let the players down, and I want to apologise to the fans who came all the way out here to see us. I know it's over and done with, and that there's no sense in getting down about this."

"But this one hurts, and it's depressing. I can't find the words to describe how badly I feel."

Shimizu S-Pulse coach Kenta Hasegawa's sombre quip to The Daily Yomiuri in the wake of his team's 2-0 League Cup final defeat to Oita Trinita on November 1 stood in glaring contrast to the euphoria emanating from the Trinita dressing room.

Such is the agony and ecstasy of football, as Oita Trinita were crowned 2008 League Cup champions after a convincing win over their more fancied opponents in front of 44,723 fans at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Both coaches took tactical risks on a sunny afternoon in the Japanese capital, but it was Oita coach Pericles Chamusca's gamble of starting injury-prone club captain Daiki Takamatsu up front that paid off, as Takamatsu responded with the opening goal on sixty-nine minutes.

That prompted an immediate change from Hasegawa, who had plumped for youthful exuberance in the form of Keisuke Iwashita and Masaki Yamamoto down his right hand side, only to switch back to experience as Daisuke Ichikawa and Marcos Paulo Alves were introduced as soon as S-Pulse began chasing the game.

The change came too late for a nervous-looking Shimizu, and Oita sealed their win when veteran Ueslei produced a cool finish one-on-one with Yamamoto to send the massive contingent of Trinita fans behind the goal wild with delight.

A tense battle in the 2008 League Cup finalOita coach Chamascu was quick to highlight the historical importance of Oita's win in a post-match statement to The Japan Times.

"It is the first title for a Kyushu team ever, and it will have a very big impact not just in Kyushu but across Japan. It should help to improve football everywhere, and it shows that football has already improved in Kyushu."

The Brazilian was not the only one celebrating a first ever title for the southern island of Kyushu, with J. League chairman Kenji Onitake delighted with Oita's historic victory.

Oita's triumph was Shimizu's tragedy, and the tens of thousands of S-Pulse fans that had made the journey to Kokuritsu trudged downcast through the streets of Sendagaya in the wake of another painful defeat on the national stage.

It is almost eight years since Shimizu lifted the Emperor's Cup on New Year's Day in 2001, and the Shizuoka side have now lost twice in succession at the National Stadium after they were losing finalists in the 2005 Emperor's Cup to Urawa Reds.

This moment belonged to an Oita side who out-thought and out-fought their opponents on the big stage, however, and few could begrudge the Kyushu side their success on what was an historic day for Japanese football.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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