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Frontale captures dramatic 1st title

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yu Kobayashi, left, heads in a goal just before halftime of Saturday’s victory over Ardija.

The Japan NewsAs Kawasaki Frontale players darted out from the bench after the final whistle, Kengo Nakamura realized the meaning of the scene on the pitch: His team had finally won its elusive first major title. The veteran midfielder dropped to the ground and buried his face in his hands to savor the joy of their J.League crown.

In a home game, Kawasaki beat Omiya Ardija 5-0 on Saturday at Todoroki Stadium, leapfrogging Kashima Antlers in the season finale to win the J.League championship.

Kawasaki and Kashima were tied at 72 points after Jubilo Iwata held the defending-champion Antlers to a scoreless draw, but Kawasaki finished atop the standings on goal difference.

Frontale won the second division in 1999 and 2004, but the team has been just short of a title in the top flight — it finished second in J1 three times — in 2006, 2008 and 2009. It lost to Cerezo Osaka on Nov. 4 in the final of the YBC Levain Cup for its fourth runner-up finish in the J.League Cup.

“I have been waiting to see this scene,” said Nakamura, 37, after pointing at the elated fans during the postgame TV interview.

“It was long. It has taken much, much too long. I thought I would end my career without a title,” said Nakamura, who has spent his entire 15-year pro career with Kawasaki.

Frontale thumped already relegated Ardija, with captain Yu Kobayashi scoring a hat trick. Antlers could have won their ninth J.League title if they had been able to beat Jubilo, but they struggled against Jubilo’s tight defense.

Meanwhile, the third and last relegation spot was filled by Ventforet Kofu, finishing 16th in the 18-team top division.Speech

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