Cerezo Osaka capture Levain Cup on Sugimoto, Souza goals

Cerezo Osaka earned a 2-0 victory over Kawasaki Frontale in Saturday’s J.League YBC Levain Cup final, earning the club their first-ever major trophy since turning professional in 1995.

The showdown at Saitama Stadium got off to a quick start when recent national team call-out Kenyu Sugimoto capitalized on lax Frontale defending in the first minute, slipping through the back line before easily beating goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong with his shot.

Frontale found their footing and pushed back in search of an equalizer, but their technique alone was not enough to break through the Cerezo defense as the remainder of the match elapsed.

Midway through the allotted four minutes of second half stoppage time, Brazilian striker Souza broke Frontale supporters’ hearts when he received the ball unmarked on a counter-attack, rounding Jung before scoring effortlessly to ensure the Kansai side’s place in Levain Cup history.

“I wanted to fulfill my duty for everyone who’s fought with us and everyone who couldn’t be on the bench today,” said Sugimoto, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We’ve won a title but this isn’t the end of our journey.”

The win makes Cerezo manager Yoon Jong-hwan the first Korean manager to win the Levain Cup. Meanwhile, Frontale remain without their own long-awaited first title after a fourth runners-up finish in the competition.

In addition to their first-place prize of 150 million yen (US$1.31m), Cerezo will earn a spot in next year’s Suruga Bank Championship against the winner of the Copa Sudamericana.