Merry Christmas indeed!
Actually, Christmas came one day early for the Tricolore faithful as we managed to secure a place in the semi-finals of the 91st Emperors Cup thanks to a fine save from our number one custodian, Hiroki Iikura!
After a scoreless 90 mins of natural time followed by a goalless 30 mins of extra-time, the dreaded Penalty shoot-out beckoned for our boys as we faced a dangerous Nagoya Grampus side in their backyard at the Mizuho Athletic Stadium. Well, they were without Kennedy and Tulio which probably helped us a lot but when it came it to PKs we were definitely the underdogs as we were shooting against former NT keeper, Seigo Narazaki whilst Nagoya were taking potshots at Iikura, a young keeper with no experience in penalty shoot-outs in a competitive game.
Yesterday, however, it would seem that Naoki Matsuda himself was looking down upon us from the heavens as he gave us the bit of luck we needed to ensure that Iikura read Nagoya’s 4th shot perfectly by leaping down low to his right to palm the ball wide of the post and give us a precious chance for glory.
Up next was Takashi Kanai who stood up to take the all important 4th shot on goal with what must have been the weight of the world on his shoulders as he nervously put the ball the ball down on the penalty spot. Taking a deep breath, Kanai gracefully jogged up to the ball and drilled it low into the inside left post before coming away with a beaming smile of satisfaction and relief plastered on his face.
The pressure was now on Nagoya as they sent in Ecuadorean striker, Danilson to draw level but the pressure proved to be too much as he hooked the ball wide of the post to secure Yokohama’s spot in the Semi-finals versus Kyoto Sanga of J2!
Here’s the match highlights:
..and here’s the Penalty shoot-out in full!
Next up, Kyoto Sanga at Tokyo Olympic Stadium on the 29th!! See you all there! VAMOS!!!
F.Marinos Starting line-up:
Iikura, Kobayashi, Kurihara, Nakazawa, Kanai, Ogura, Moriya, Hyodo, Nakamura, Ono, and Watanabe.
Moriya → Matsumoto Rei (62), Watanabe → Matsumoto Sho (93)
Goals (Penalties): Nakamura, Kurihara, Kobayashi, and Kanai.