Nabisco Cup: SF 1st leg: Wed, 2nd September 2009
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Venue: Todoroki Stadium
Frontale head to the Nissan Stadium on Sunday buoyed by a 2-0 victory over Yokohama F Marinos in the 1st leg of their Nabisco Cup semi-final.
Goals in each half from Chong Tese and Juninho put the home team in the driving seat. Renatinho made an all-too-rare start in a three-pronged attack, but failed to add his name to the scoresheet.
The team coped admirably in the absence of their Japan internationals. Yabu stood in for Kengo, as expected. But it was a surprise to see Riki Sugiyama make his debut between the sticks in place of big Eiji.
The more experienced Takashi Aizawa (who was first choice for much of Cerezo Osaka's J2 campaign last year) would have been the obvious replacement. But an impressive performance from young Riki fully justified his selection. His tears of joy at the final whistle, having kept the Marinos attack at bay, were testament to his overall contribution to the game.
After the mixed emotions of Sunday's draw with S-Pulse, it was important to get off to a good start. And Chong Tese, looking much livelier than he did at the weekend, delivered the goods after just 15 minutes.
A passage of quick passing in midfield gave Mori some space down the right. The full-back cut inside his opposite number and sent a low cross-cum-shot towards the far post. Marinos keeper Hiroki Iikura looked to have it covered, but Chong came bursting in late, directing the ball into the opposite corner with the tip of his fluorescent boot. Encouraging signs from a player whose predatory powers have been called into question recently.
Juninho made things more comfortable shortly after the break, converting Murakami's cross with a well-placed header. That the Brazilian marksman was afforded so much room perhaps owes something to the absence of Marinos captain and marshall of defence, Yuji Nakazawa.
Chong later had a glorious chance to secure Frontale's progress to the final, but shot straight at Iikura after bullying his way past the last defender. Still, a combination of disciplined defending and confident goal-keeping from the hosts, as well as the odd wayward finish from the visitors, leaves our Kanagawa cousins with it all to do in the 2nd leg.