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Kawasaki batter Squirrels to win first J-League title

Tokyo (AFP) – Captain Yu Kobayashi scored a hat-trick as Kawasaki Frontale crushed Omiya Ardija 5-0 on Saturday to capture the J-League championship, their first major Japanese title.

A lopsided home win over the ‘Squirrels’ saw Kawasaki pip Kashima Antlers on goal difference after the defending champions were held to a scoreless draw at Jubilo Iwata.

Kobayashi smashed in a treble after Hiroyuki Abe’s early goal, before Tatsuya Hasegawa added a fifth with the last kick of the game.

The final whistle sparked jubilant scenes from the Kawasaki players and home fans as Frontale completed a remarkable late charge to their first ever J-League title.

“It was a difficult season but all the frustration disappeared today,” said a tearful Kawasaki manager Toru Oniki.

“After coming this far the fatigue we felt didn’t matter. We just wanted to leave everything out there and credit to the players, they did that.”

Kashima’s bid for a record-extending ninth J-League title collapsed after two successive 0-0 draws.

Kawasaki and Kashima finished on 72 points from 34 games but Frontale boasted a vastly superior goal difference.

“It feels amazing,” said sharp-shooter Kobayashi, who finished as the J-League’s top scorer with 23 goals.

“This makes all the low points worthwhile, but it’s more about the team than individuals. I’m just happy my goals helped the team win the title.”

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