The Japan News With little time to spare, Maebashi Ikuei finally found a path through the defense and used it to capture a first-ever national title.
Itsuki Enomoto fired in the winning goal off a rebound in second-half injury time, giving the Gunma Prefecture school a dramatic 1-0 victory over Chiba Prefecture’s Ryutsu Keizai University Kashiwa in the final of the 96th National High School Championship on a rainy Monday at Saitama Stadium.
The victory gave coach Kosuke Yamada an elusive first title in his 36 years at the helm, and left the veteran mentor in tears. “I had been preparing for extra time,” Yamada said in an on-field interview.
Maebashi, which made the final last year but lost 5-0 to Aomori Yamada, got the winning goal after forward Riku Iijima’s shot was blocked by defender Tatsuya Sanbongi. The ball went to Enomoto, who did not hesitate in slotting it home.
Throughout the day, the Kashiwa defense, which had not allowed a goal in the tournament, helped keep the pressure from the high-octane Maebashi attack off keeper Haruto Usui.
In the 79th minute, a Maebashi corner kick led to a succession of three quick-fire shots on goal — all of which were cut off by a defender at the line before the ball was finally cleared.
Earlier, it was the woodwork that saved Kashiwa, which was looking for its second title and first in 10 years.
Late in the first half, Iijima, who had seven goals in the tournament, latched onto a miscleared ball and rifled an angled shot from the right that went across the goal area before flicking off the left post.