Cerezo Osaka seal ACL return with Emperor’s Cup win

Cerezo Osaka were crowned 2017 Emperor’s Cup champions on Monday after claiming a 2-1 extra-time win over Yokohama F. Marinos in the final at the Saitama Stadium 2002.

It was Yokohama who initially drew first blood after eight minutes when Sho Ito got in behind the opposition defence, latching onto an inch-perfect over-the-top delivery before stabbing his shot past the onrushing Kim Jin-hyeon.

However, in the 65th minute, the scores were levelled when Marinos failed to clear their lines after goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura had parried Kota Mizunuma’s fierce drive; Kazuya Yamamura on hand to fire home the loose ball.

With neither side able to find the net again in the remaining 25 minutes, the final then went into extra-time.

But, just five minutes in, Cerezo netted what proved to be the winner when a searching cross by Yamamura was misjudged at the back post by Iikura, paving the way for Mizunuma to squeeze his header from a tight angle into the unguarded net.

The triumph, which also saw them complete the cup double following their J.League Cup victory back in November, means Yoon Jong-hwan’s charges are guaranteed a place in this year’s AFC Champions League.

Japan’s other two representatives assured of a spot in the group stages are J1 League champions Kawasaki Frontale and runners-up Kashima Antlers, while Kashiwa Reysol will enter at the playoff round as third-placed Cerezo have advanced directly as Emperor’s Cup champions.

Photo credit: Cerezo Osaka