A fortuitous goal from Sai van Wermeskerken was enough to hand last season's Emperor's Cup winners Kawasaki Frontale a 1-0 win over reigning J-League champions Vissel Kobe in the Super Cup on Saturday.

The 48th-minute winner at Tokyo's National Stadium came off a free-kick into the box, with Hotaru Yamaguchi's clearance blocked by van Wermeskerken's leg. The ball traveled toward the goal and Kobe defender Matheus Thuler's scuffed kick put the ball into his own net.

"I'm happy to have made my debut appearance (in Japan) in an important match like this," said the 29-year-old van Wermeskerken, who had spent his entire career at his father's homeland, the Netherlands, before joining Kawasaki this winter from NEC Nijmegen.

"The ball dropped where I hoped it would and I'm really happy to have scored."

Sai van Wermeskerken (L) of Kawasaki Frontale celebrates after opening the scoring against Vissel Kobe in the second half of the Fujifilm Super Cup at Tokyo's National Stadium on Feb. 17, 2024. (Kyodo)  

The right-back's header was tipped over the bar by Kobe keeper Daiya Maekawa in the game's first chance in the 12th minute. Former France forward Bafetimbi Gomis' low powerful volley flew straight at the keeper five minutes later.

Kobe had their moment in the 22nd minute when Jean Patric's cross fed 2023 J-League MVP and joint top scorer Yuya Osako, whose close-range shot was denied by Kawasaki keeper Naoto Kamifukumoto.

But Kawasaki kept probing, with Gomis' effort deflected narrowly wide moments later before the dominant side led soon after the break.

Kawasaki Frontale players celebrate winning the Fujifilm Super Cup after a 1-0 victory over Vissel Kobe at Tokyo's National Stadium on Feb. 17, 2024. (Kyodo)

Kawasaki midfielder Tatsuki Seko rattled the bar with a 20-meter free kick in the 69th minute, while substitute and left winger Marcinho burst into the box and forced a save off Maekawa in the 77th as Toru Oniki's men went on to claim a deserved win.

Kobe manager Takayuki Yoshida introduced former Celtic midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi among his substitutes but failed to turn the tide in front of a crowd of 52,142.

The Super Cup is the traditional curtain raiser ahead of the J-League season, which begins Friday.

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