Korean striker Ji-sung leads underdogs Purple Sanga to first Emperor Cup title


ASIAN FOOTBALL ROUNDUP 

KUALA LUMPUR: A golden goal by Mohamed Noor in the third minute of extra time helped Saudi Arabia to retain the Arab Cup with a 1-0 win over Bahrain in Kuwait City, Kuwait. 

Mohamed Noor got the crucial goal in injury time, heading home a cross from Abdulaziz Al Janoubi to clinch victory for the Saudis, who dominated a rather dour encounter at the Kuwait Club Stadium.  

Bahrain, who were beaten 2-1 by the Saudis in an earlier group encounter, created few chances of note and had goalkeeper Ali Hassan to thank for sending the match into extra time as he kept out efforts by Talal Al Meshal and Yasser Al Qahtani late in the game.  

Saudi Arabia won the last edition of the Arab Cup in 1998 with a 3-1 win over hosts Qatar.  

However, the Arab Cup was not participated by strong countries like Egypt who boast players like Mido of Dutch side Ajax Armsterdam and Hany Ramzy of Bundesliga club Kaiserslautern, 2002 South Korea-Japan World Cup Finalists Tunisia and Algeria. 

Morocco, who have in their talent reservoir to call upon the likes of European based Noureddine Naybet and Mustapha Hadji, send instead a team comprised of local players. 

In Japan, Kyoto Purple Sanga claimed their first ever Emperor’s Cup title on New Year’s Day as they came from a goal down to beat J-League giants Kashima Antlers 2-1 in the final at the Tokyo National Stadium.  

In an exciting match played in front of more than 50,000 fans, Kashima went in front after just 15 minutes as Atsushi Yanagisawa’s lob came back off the crossbar but fell perfectly to Brazilian forward Euller, who headed home.  

Kashima were favoured to claim their third Emperor’s Cup and tenth major trophy in ten years but the underdog Purple Sanga battled back and levelled the score early in the second half through Korean World Cup star Park Ji-sung.  

The Korean striker, who was playing in what was likely to be his final match for Kyoto before his expected departure for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven headed home a Shingo Suzuki free kick to knot the score at one apiece.  

Both sides pushed forward in search of a winner and five minutes from time, a misplaced pass by Kashima’s Augusto was picked up by Kazuhiro Suzuki, who booted the ball for the Kyoto forwards to chase.  

Fabinho’s attempted clearance finally fell at the feet of Teruaki Kurobe on the edge of the box, who fired a left-footed shot into the top right hand corner of the Kashima net.  

Kashima pressed forward in an attempt to get back into the match but the dismissal of goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata for a professional foul on Kurobe in the closing stages sealed their fate.  

Al Shabab finally put an end to their winless start to the season in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) League at the 11th attempt as they edged local rivals Dubai 2-1 on New Year’s Day.  

The victory moved Shabab off the foot of the standings and gives them some fresh hope of escaping relegation after a dreadful run that saw them drawing three and losing seven of their first 10 games.  

Things had looked bleak once again for Shabab supporters when Dubai went in front after just six minutes through a 20-metre free kick by Chilean striker Cristian Montecinos.  

However, Shabab took control of the game and levelled the score in the 58th minute when Walid Obaid was brought down in the Dubai penalty box and got up to convert the resulting spot kick.  

Shabab were awarded a second penalty kick in 69th minute when Walid was brought down yet again in the Dubai box, but this time he fired wide. 

However, Dubai’s reprieve lasted just three minutes as Iranian international Ali Daei fired home from 25 metres to secure all three points for Shabab.  

Shabab’s German coach Rainer Holleman was pleased with the win and set his sights on helping his team avoid the drop in the second half of the season.  

“There are 11 matches left in the second round. If we reach 20 points, then we are safe and wouldn’t be relegated,” said Holleman.  

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