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Champions at Last: Nagoya Grampus win 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP

Champions at Last: Nagoya Grampus win 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP

Second-half goals from Naoki Maeda and Sho Inagaki sealed the 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP for Nagoya Grampus as they defeated Cerezo Osaka, 2-0, in Saturday's final at Saitama Stadium 2002.

After a scoreless first half, Grampus wasted no time in the second period of play, as Yuki Soma's 47th-minute corner kick glanced off Yoichiro Kakitani and was ultimately steered home by Maeda, who headed home at the back post.

While Cerezo pushed for an equalizer, and came close several times — including a tremendous long-distance effort from Riku Matsuda that rattled the post after swerving wildly across the face of goal — their possession all too often failed to generate dangerous chances that could seriously trouble Grampus goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.

Ultimately, Nagoya would make Cerezo pay for that, as a 79th-minute attack down the left channel found its way into the path of striker Jakub Świerczok. The Polish substitute put a powerful, low drive on target, and while Cerezo goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon was able to save Świerczok's effort with an outstretched left foot, he could not keep out what came next.

Eyeing a rebound in the box, Grampus' midfield engine Inagaki sped into the area and hammered the bouncing ball back against the turf and into the back of the net from 15 yards to seal a famous title for Nagoya, their first-ever in the J.League Cup.

This was victory in typical Nagoya style under manager Massimo Ficcadenti, built from a steely rearguard, ruthlessly efficient possession, and a sense of communal grit and graft.

That style felt particularly poignant on Saturday for Grampus, who not only collected a first piece of silverware since 2010 but victory in a competition in which they had previously never made the final, falling at the semi-final stage on nine separate occasions since 1992.

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