Andres Iniesta lifts Japan Super Cup after nine straight pen misses
Andres Iniesta lifted his first trophy of 2020 on Saturday but the Japanese Super Cup final will be remembered more for Vissel Kobe and Yokohama F Marinos missing nine consecutive spot kicks in the deciding penalty shootout that Kobe eventually won 3-2.
The game between the defending champions, Yokohama, and Emperor's Cup holders, Kobe, is the traditional curtain-raiser to the Japanese season though coaches will hope it does not set the scene for the standard of penalties for the months to come.
A thrilling game finished 3-3 in normal time, as Yokohama came from behind three times. Douglas opened the scoring for Kobe before Marcos Junior levelled on 36 minutes; Kyogo Furuhasi put Iniesta's side 2-1 up before half-time but after the break, Takahiro Ogihara levelled once again.
Hotaru Yamaguchi struck with 21 minutes remaining to put Kobe 3-2 ahead but Erik Lima hit back for Yokohama four minutes later to level the score and send the game into an unforgettable penalty shootout to decide the destination of the trophy.
Iniesta scored Kobe's first penalty but when the scores reached 2-2, fans at Saitama Stadium watched in disbelief as nine players, including Iniesta's former Barcelona teammate Thomas Vermaelen, either missed the target or saw their shots saved.
Edigar Junio of Yokohama was denied by Kobe goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura; Keijiro Ogawa hit the post and Kota Mizunuma blasted over. Then Daigo Nishi, Ken Matsubara, Leo Osaki, Takuya Wada, Vermaelen and Keito Endo all failed.
Eventually, Yamaguchi stepped up to smash the ball past Park Il-gyu and into the Yokohama net to hand Kobe the trophy.
"I think that it was an exciting match for the fans," Iniesta said afterwards. "Both teams created a lot of opportunities but we were able to win. You never know what is going to happen with a penalty shootout and it was a bit crazy but, in the end, we were happy to get the victory against a good team.
"I am looking forward to the new season and I think it will be a good one."
The 2020 J.League season kicks off on Feb. 21.