Wednesday’s J.League Cup knockout stage action saw current J.League 1 leaders and defending J.League Cup champions Kawasaki Frontale, Kashiwa Reysol, defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos, and FC Tokyo march through to the competition’s semifinal. FC Tokyo confidently knock out Nagoya Grampus 3-0 at the Ajinomoto while Yokohama edge out last year’s runners-up Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on penalties, Kashiwa saw off the challenge of Cerezo Osaka 3-0 despite playing without danger man Michael Olunga, while there was utter humiliation at Kobe’s Misaki Park Stadium as Kawasaki utterly destroyed hosts Vissel Kobe 6-0.
Having played out an exciting 2-2 draw at the same venue on August 27th’s J1 action, both Toru Oniki and Thorsten Fink deployed their strongest squads with a spot in the J.League Cup semifinal up for grabs. The likes of Yu Kobayashi, Reo Hatate, Ryota Oshima, Kyohei Noborizato, and Akihiro Ienaga were present for Kawasaki, while Vissel had Keijiro Ogawa, Kyogo Furuhashi, Daigo Nishi, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Gotoku Sakai, and Sergei Samper at their disposal.
Unlike the previous encounter in the J1 that saw a balanced match, Kawasaki immediately raced to a 2-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes of the game, with Kobayashi bagging himself two goals in the 7th and 13th minute respectively. Manabu Saito then made it 3-0 Kawasaki in the 21st minute, before Ienaga made it 4-0 shortly after the start of the second half.
Thorsten decided to introduce FC Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, who had just recovered from injury, in the 70th minute to try salvage something for Vissel, however two Kawasaki substitutes, Yasuto Wakizaka and Taisei Miyashiro, rubbed salt into Vissel’s wounds by adding more to Kawasaki’s advantage. Wakizaka made it 5-0 Kawasaki in the 72nd minute, before Miyashiro slammed in the final nail in Vissel’s coffin in the 87th minute, with the match ending in a ruthless 6-0 win for Kawasaki. Oniki’s men easily book themselves a spot in the semifinal with frightening ease, avenging the two points that they’ve dropped at the Misaki Park Stadium earlier in the league.
As for Vissel, the 6-0 defeat was the heaviest defeat of Iniesta’s storied career, eclipsing Barcelona B’s 5-0 defeat at the hands of Hercules CF all the way back in 2002. The midfield maestro took to social media to apologize to Vissel’s understandably outraged fanbase, with Samper joining him with his own apologies to the fans.
Elsewhere, in Osaka, Kashiwa head coach Nelsinho Baptista made the decision to rest current J1 top scorer Olunga as his side travel to Cerezo. The lack of their Kenyan “Engineer” in their front line did not stop Kashiwa from dishing out a beatdown on much-fancied Cerezo though, as a brace from Ataru Esaka and a goal from Hiroto Goya saw Kashiwa beating Cerezo 3-0 at the men in pink’s own backyard, with the reigning J.League 2 champions sliding their way into the semifinal.
FC Tokyo also had a straightforward match as they welcome Nagoya to the Ajinomoto, winning 3-0 over the visitors thanks to a brace from Shuto Abe and a goal from Adailton as the Gasmen book themselves a date in the J.League Cup semifinal. Last but not least, Yokohama had to grind their way to victory in Sapporo as they edge out Consadole 5-4 on penalties. The hosts had initially took the lead in the 53rd minute thanks to Yoshiaki Komai, however Jun Amano leveled the scoreline for Yokohama in the 77th minute. In the end, Consadole’s Akito Fukumori failed to convert his penalty in the ensuing shootout, thus allowing Yokohama’s Ken Matsubara to smash home the winning penalty that ensured Ange Postecoglou’s men’s passage to the semifinal.
The 2020 J.League Cup semifinal will take place on October 7th, with Yokohama taking on Kashiwa and Kawasaki hosting FC Tokyo in a Tamagawa Clasico.