Henrique Trevisan and Shun Takagi were the heroes for Oita Trinita on Sunday night as the Turtles squeezed their way into the 2021 Emperor’s Cup final – the Turtles’ first domestic cup final since their J.League Cup win in 2008. Brazilian defender Trevisan, on loan from Portuguese top-flight side Estoril Praia, smashed home a last-gasp equalizer deep within extra time, before Takagi kept his cool and denied two penalties as Oita eliminated heavy favorites Kawasaki Frontale from the cup on penalties, denying Toru Oniki’s J.League 1 champions the chance of doing a second-consecutive double.
Sunday’s Emperor’s Cup semifinal match at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium should’ve been a straightforward affair for hosts Kawasaki – they are the Emperor’s Cup defending champions having beaten Gamba Osaka 1-0 in last year’s final and the men in sky blue have successfully defended their J1 title, winning the 2021 crown quite convincingly.
Oita, on the other hand, were relegated into the J.League 2 after a poor 2021 season, and they have ridden their luck quite often in the cup. Kawasaki were Oita’s first J1 opposition in their cup run this year, having taken on two non-league oppositions in Honda Lock and Fukui United as well as two J2 opponents in Thespakusatsu Gunma and Jubilo Iwata. The Turtles also needed extra time to knock out Honda Lock in the second round and Gunma in the fourth round, though they’ve done well to eliminate Jubilo who went on the win this season’s J2 and earn promotion to the J1 in the quarterfinal.
It seems like Kawasaki’s path to the final has been assured considering the heavy favorites had drawn the weakest one out of the semifinalists this year, and the men from Kanagawa Prefecture could look forward to repeating their Double from the 2020 season.
But in football, especially in cup competitions, anything could happen.
While Kawasaki dominated proceedings as they usually do throughout the past couple of seasons, Oita managed to fight back valiantly and prevented the league champs from plundering their defenses. Showing epic amounts of grit and tenacity, Oita managed to force a goalless draw with Kawasaki after 90 minutes plus stoppages, forcing the game to go into extra time.
It was during this extra half-an-hour of action that Oita’s resistance was seemingly undone after substitute Yu Kobayashi gave Kawasaki the lead in the 113rd minute.
However, Tomohiro Katanosaka’s charges had other things to say, and right at the end of extra-time, Trevisan managed to breach Jung Sung-ryong in the Kawasaki goal with a well-executed header.
1-1 after 120 minutes, which means that the match will be settled through a penalty shootout.
After Trevisan’s late heroics, it was Takagi’s turn to step up to the plate in the shootout. The 32-year old custodian, who had previously gathered dust in the Kawasaki bench between the 2012 and 2016 seasons, made two huge saves as Kawasaki’s Kazuya Yamamura, Koki Tsukagawa, and Miki Yamane failed their penalties.
Five out of Oita’s seven penalty takers managed to perform their assignment admirably, allowing Oita to emerge victorious in the penalty shootout, 5-4.
Oita’s success in eliminating the titleholders meant that they will become the first Kyushu team to play in the Emperor’s Cup final since Kitakyushu-based Yawata Steel all the way back in 1965, 56 years ago.
In the final Oita will take on Urawa Red Diamonds, who eliminated Cerezo Osaka 2-0 in Sunday’s other semifinal, at the National Stadium in Tokyo on December 19th. The Turtles will be extra determined to win the final, as it will provide the ultimate consolation prize following relegation this season, as well as allowing Oita to send Katanosaka off on a high, as the head coach is set to step down from his position at the end of the 2021 season.