Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gamba book Emperor's Cup showdown with Nagoya

J.League.
Defending champions Gamba Osaka will meet Nagoya Grampus in the 2009 Emperor's Cup final, after the duo conjured nervy wins in a pair of tense semi-finals on December 29.

Just over 25,000 fans turned out at the National Stadium in Tokyo as Gamba's veteran Brazilian striker Lucas Severino gave the Kansai side an early lead against outsiders Vegalta Sendai.

The underdogs hit back through Takayuki Nakahara's strike just before the hour mark, however the reliable Lucas notched again soon after, as Akira Nishino's battle-hardened Gamba moved into another showpiece final.

Only a penalty shoot-out could separate Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus in front of just under 20,000 fans in the day's earlier fixture at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi, as Dragan Stojkovic's gritty Nagoya outfit prevailed following a 1-1 draw.

Japan international Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring for Shimizu, however Nagoya hit back from the penalty spot, with Keiji Tamada slotting home from twelve yards after former S-Pulse man Alex had gone down inside the box.

With the scores still level after thirty minutes of extra-time, the match went to penalties - with Shimizu defender Daisuke Ichikawa missing the vital spot-kick, as his effort clattered against the crossbar.

There was high drama from the final kick of the shoot-out, as Keita Sugimoto smashed his penalty against the underside of the crossbar, only to see the ball cannon down off Shimizu goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto and in.

Nagoya's dramatic shoot-out win sees them move into their first Emperor's Cup final since 1999, when current coach Stojkovic inspired Grampus to their last major trophy with his exploits on the pitch.

The New Year's Day final brings to an end the 2009 Japanese season, with Gamba and Nagoya both looking to lay their hands on the final piece of silverware for the year.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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