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 Bandar Poker Qq 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.
Asian Cup 2011 update: Arabian Gulf Cup tournament now set for November 2010 in Yemen
Yemen will host the 20th Arabian Gulf Cup from 22 November until 4 December 2010, it was announced at the weekend in the Yemeni capital Sanaa at the closing session of a conference of the GCC Football Federations which also included Iraq and Yemen.
There had been speculation that recent internal strife in Yemen might impact on the ability of the Gulf country to host the biennial tournament.
Yemen;s President Ali Abdullah Saleh told Dubai Sport TV: “Yemen is ready, economically and security-wise to host this competition.”
Yemen’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Hamoud Abbad said that Yemen’s plans for the tournament were on track and his government were making exceptional efforts to meet all the requirements that would make the tournament a success.
The 2009 Arabian Gulf Cup, also known as Al Khaleeji Cup, was won by the hosts Oman in January. The tournament featured handball, basketball and volleyball for the first time in 2004 when hosted by Qatar.
The cup was founded at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico by Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the first tournament took place in Bahrain in 1970 and was won by Kuwait.
North Korea win Friendly Tournament opener
The four-nation International Friendly Tournament hosted by Qatar kicked off last night with a 1-0 victory for the North Koreans over Mali at the Qatar Sports Club.
Rest of the tournament schedule:
Monday – 28/12/2009
5:30 Qatar vs. Iran
Wednesday – 30/12/2009
4:00 Mali vs. Iran
6:15 Qatar vs. North Korea
Saturday – 02/01/2010
04:00 Qatar vs. Mali
06:15 Iran vs. North Korea
Culina out of Australia’s clash with Kuwait
Midfielder Jason Culina has been ruled out of Australia’s AFC Asian Cup 2011 qualifying clash with Kuwait on 6 January because of a knee injury sustained in a local A-league match on Saturday. Coach Pim Verbeek called up Central Coast Mariners Dean Heffernan as Culina’s replacement for the trip to Kuwait City. Kuwait and Australia are joint leaders of Group B, with both sides needing one more victory to book their place in the finals.
Thailand coach Bryan Robson has warned his team that a win against Jordan is imperative to keep alive their qualifying hopes for the AFC Asian Cup 2011. The two sides clash in the Group E encounter on January 6. “We know that we must beat Jordan to get a good chance to qualify for the finals. It is a very important game,” said the former England captain.
Singapore are to play two friendlies against Oman in preparation for their crucial match against Iran in the same group. The first match is being played today, the second on 31 December, with coach Radojko Avramovic warning his side that they need at least four points from their last two matchs, even though Jordan beat Iran in the last qualifying round of matches.
Iran are currently in control of Group E with seven points while Singapore are second with six points. The Thais have five points and are in third place while their rivals Jordan are at the bottom of the table with four points. Only the top two teams from the group advance to the 2011 finals in Doha from 7-27 January.