Ten-man Tokyo Verdy lift Emperor's Cup
TOKYO, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Ten-man Tokyo Verdy beat holders Jubilo Iwata 2-1 in a grudge final to lift the Emperor's Cup for the second time on Saturday.
Strikers Kazunori Iio and Kazuki Hiramoto were on target for once-mighty Verdy, whose midfielder Yoshiyuki Kobayashi was shown a red card for his second bookable offence just before halftime.
Norihiro Nishi pulled one back in the 78th minute but Verdy held out despite late Jubilo pressure.
The annual New Year's Day match was given added spice after Verdy's Argentine coach Osvaldo Ardiles argued that Jubilo should not represent Japan in the Asian Champions League.
Under the current rules, Jubilo will take part in this year's competition after winning last season's Emperor's Cup. Verdy must wait until 2006. While no longer the force they were in the mid-1990s, Verdy dominated in chilly Tokyo, Iio breaking the deadlock in the 36th minute, tapping in after Hiramoto's header hit the post.
Hiramoto, who had been guilty of two glaring misses before Iio's strike, added a second in the 54th minute with a fine solo effort.
Nishi pounced after confusion in the Verdy defence to give three-times J-League champions Jubilo a lifeline and midfielder Takashi Fukunishi's header shaved the post moments later.
Verdy, who won the first two J-League titles in 1993 and 1994, survived Jubilo's late onslaught to end their long trophy drought since lifting the Emperor's Cup in the 1996 season.
'It was a long, hard road just to get to the final,' said Ardiles. 'The players were unbelievable. We were a man down and under pressure but they battled so hard. It gives us reason to be optimistic for next season.'