Monday 26 September 2011

Ventforet Kofu mix things up at both top and bottom

Third-from-bottom Ventforet Kofu generated excitement at both ends of the J1 table with a 2-0 upset away to leaders Gamba Osaka on Saturday evening.

Having comfortably absorbed the hosts’ attacks with greater organisation throughout a goalless first half, Kofu took the lead on 62 minutes when Paulinho was allowed to run unchallenged through the centre and hit a precise, low shot past the dive of Yosuke Fujigaya from fully 30 yards.

Gamba were unable to create a killer opportunity in reply, and the result was secured deep into stoppage time when Japan forward Mike Havenaar stepped inside Tomokazu Myojin and curled a shot into the far corner.

The Osaka club were, however, able to hold onto first position as both of their closest challengers also succumbed to surprise two-goal defeats at home.

Earlier on Saturday, Yokohama F Marinos surrendered 3-1 to resurgent Vegalta Sendai despite taking the lead through Yuzo Kobayashi after just three minutes. The visitors were able to turn the tables within nine minutes thereafter thanks to a 25-yard equaliser from Makoto Kakuda and a first goal for Atsushi Yanagisawa since his pre-season transfer from relegated Kyoto Sanga.

Shingo Akamine netted for the fifth match in a row to complete the scoring early in the second half.

Kashiwa Reysol squandered the opportunity to go back on top on Sunday as their record of seven straight home wins was ended in a 3-1 defeat against relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija. Confident finishes from Rafael early in each half – the second following a delightful backheel from Keigo Higashi – sent the Squirrels into a 2-0 lead, but after pulling one back for the home side, Leandro Domingues was given the perfect chance to equalise when the returning Hideaki Kitajima was felled in the penalty area by Kim Young-Gwon.

However, the Brazilian’s tame spot kick was saved by Takashi Kitano, allowing Omiya to regain the momentum and seal a vital three points on the counter attack through Takuya Aoki. The result keeps Jun Suzuki’s side five points clear of the drop zone in spite of Kofu’s earlier win.

The failings of the three pretenders to their crown made it a perfect long weekend for Nagoya Grampus, who were able to sit back and watch in comfort after beating Vissel Kobe 3-1 on public holiday Friday. The champions recovered quickly from Park Kang-Jo’s early opener to level through Marcus Tulio Tanaka, before a clever lob by Jungo Fujimoto gave them the lead on the hour mark.

J1 leading scorer Joshua Kennedy hit his 15th of the season late on to take Grampus back up to second, ahead of Kashiwa on goal difference and a point behind Gamba.


The sides placed in most danger by Kofu’s recent run of form are Urawa Reds, who played out a goalless draw with Kashima Antlers, and Albirex Niigata, who succumbed to a first top flight goal for Tomoyuki Arata in the 91st minute of their game away to Jubilo Iwata. Both strugglers are now just two points above the relegation zone.

Bottom club Avispa Fukuoka beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 to record only their fourth league win of the season, but Tetsuya Ayano’s side remain 14 points adrift of safety and could still have their relegation confirmed by mid-October.

Second-from-bottom Montedio Yamagata were hammered 6-0 at Cerezo Osaka, with highlights for the in-form Asian Champions League quarter-finalists including a beautiful short passing move for Ryuji Bando’s opener, and a debut penalty for recent loan signing Yohei Otake.

- Keigo Higashi and Ryohei Yamazaki were the scorers as the Japan U-22 team beat Malaysia 2-0 in their opening group stage fixture in qualification for the 2012 London Olympics last Wednesday. Syria defeated Bahrain 3-1 in the other Group C game.

J1 results (matchday 27)
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Vissel Kobe
Cerezo Osaka 6-0 Montedio Yamagata
Yokohama F Marinos 1-3 Vegalta Sendai
Kashima Antlers 0-0 Urawa Reds
Gamba Osaka 0-2 Ventforet Kofu
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Kashiwa Reysol 1-3 Omiya Ardija
Avispa Fukuoka 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima

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Sunday 25 September 2011

Catch-up: J1 matchday 26

The main story of matchday 26 was the third top-versus-second battle in just over a month, as Gamba Osaka held onto their position at the summit of J1 with a 1-1 draw away to Yokohama F Marinos.

Despite a period of early Gamba domination that saw Lee Keun-Ho hit the post and have a goal chalked off by the linesman’s flag, it was the hosts who opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on 20 minutes – Shingo Hyodo meeting the ball on the bounce to smash past Yosuke Fujigaya from just outside the area.

But Marinos were unable to hold onto their advantage in the second half, as an unmarked Rafinha headed home from Hiroki Fujiharu’s cross to level the scores just before the hour mark. Gamba almost won the game late on, but Afonso hit the woodwork and Lee saw his header brilliantly saved by Hiroki Iikura.

Kashiwa Reysol took advantage to move up to second – a point behind Gamba – with a 4-0 romp away to Vissel Kobe. Yokohama remained three points off the pace but down to third, with Nagoya Grampus a further point back in fourth after their 1-1 draw at Kashima Antlers.

J1 results (matchday 26)
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Urawa Reds
Ventforet Kofu 2-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Vegalta Sendai 2-0 Albirex Niigata
Montedio Yamagata 0-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Vissel Kobe 0-4 Kashiwa Reysol
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1 Jubilo Iwata
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Gamba Osaka
Kashima Antlers 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
Omiya Ardija 0-0 Cerezo Osaka

AFC Champions League quarter final first leg results
Cerezo Osaka (JPN) 4
-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR) 1-1 Zob Ahan (IRN)
Sepahan (IRN) 1-0 Al-Sadd (QAT)
Al-Ittihad (KSA) 3-1 FC Seoul (KOR)

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup second round first leg results
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Jubilo Iwata
Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 Albirex Niigata
Urawa Reds 2-0 Omiya Ardija
Yokohama F Marinos 4-0 Kawasaki Frontale

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Monday 12 September 2011

Another hat-trick for Bando completes Cerezo recovery in nine-goal thriller

Ryuji Bando came off the bench to score a hat-trick for the second time in three weeks as Cerezo Osaka recovered from 3-0 down to beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-4.

The home side suffered a nightmare first half as defender Teruyuki Moniwa was forced off through injury after just eight minutes, before goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon misjudged a cross from Mihael Mikić and allowed the ball to sail straight into the net. Further strikes from Yojiro Takahagi and Hisato Sato looked to have given Sanfrecce an unassailable advantage at the interval.

But Cerezo incredibly fought back level within twelve minutes of Bando’s introduction at the start of the second period. A deflected effort from Hiroshi Kiyotake in the first minute of the half set the ball rolling, and Bando got his head to crosses from Yusuke Maruhashi and Fabio Lopes for two more goals in quick succession.

Kim Bo-Kyung finally put Cerezo ahead on 72 minutes with the aid of another deflection, while Bando completed his hat-trick soon afterwards to round off the spectacular recovery. Sato struck a close-range consolation for the visitors in stoppage time.

City rivals Gamba Osaka extended their lead at the top of J1 to three points with a rather less dramatic 2-0 win at home to fourth-from-bottom Omiya Ardija, as Kashiwa Reysol came from behind to beat reigning champions Nagoya Grampus 2-1.

Gamba took the lead at the end of a turgid first half when Rafinha pounced on a weak back pass by Shin Kanazawa. Omiya ‘keeper Takashi Kitano managed to prevent the Brazilian from scoring but the ball broke for strike partner Lee Keun-Ho to slot home into the empty goal.

Rafinha did net his eighth goal in nine appearances for the club late in the second half, collecting a pass from substitute Kim Seung-Yong to complete a rare flowing breakaway.

Their joy was doubled by the news from Kashiwa, where Grampus slipped to fourth in the table despite taking a 17th-minute lead through Keiji Tamada’s direct free kick. Jorge Wagner’s clever flick played in Junya Tanaka to equalise midway through the second half, before Yoshinari Takagi made a hash of Hiroki Sakai’s cross to allow a simple finish for Masakatsu Sawa.

Yokohama F Marinos are now up to second ahead of Reysol on goal difference, as Aria Jasuru Hasegawa’s early strike was enough to decide an unexpectedly tricky encounter with bottom side Avispa Fukuoka.

Gamba visit Yokohama next weekend for what will be their third top-two battle in the space of a month.


Freefalling Kawasaki Frontale saw their club record run of consecutive league losses extended to eight in a display of comical defending at home to Vissel Kobe. Goals from Takayuki Yoshida and Yoshito Okubo – both left in acres of space – sandwiched the easiest of efforts for Park Kang-Jo, played through on goal by a woefully underhit back pass by Kosuke Kikuchi.

Ventforet Kofu remain seven points adrift of safety after a 2-1 home loss to Vegalta Sendai, but Montedio Yamagata are now just a point further back in 17th after Masato Yamazaki’s second-minute goal secured a 1-0 victory away to Urawa Reds.

Elsewhere, a second half debut cameo from former Sweden international Frederik Ljungberg was not enough to turn the Shizuoka derby in favour of Shimizu S-Pulse, as Jubilo Iwata ran out 2-1 winners thanks to international pair Yuichi Komano and Ryoichi Maeda.

Fifth-placed Kashima Antlers fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Albirex Niigata, but the two points dropped leave Oswaldo de Oliveira’s side now ten behind the top four.

- Nadeshiko Japan sealed their place at next year’s Olympic Games in London with a record of four wins and one draw from their five Asian women’s qualifying matches played in China this month.
- Shinji Okazaki scored the opener for VfB Stuttgart in their 3-0 home win over Hannover 96, while Hajime Hosogai recorded the first of his Bundesliga career but was unable to prevent FC Augsburg from losing 4-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
- Lucas became the second former Gamba Osaka striker to hit a hat-trick on Saturday, following the earlier feats of Ryuji Bando as FC Tokyo thrashed Kyoto Sanga 6-1 to go two points clear at the top of J2.

J1 results (matchday 25)
Cerezo Osaka 5-4 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Avispa Fukuoka 0-1 Yokohama F Marinos
Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 Nagoya Grampus
Albirex Niigata 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Jubilo Iwata 2-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Gamba Osaka 2-0 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 0-1 Montedio Yamagata
Ventforet Kofu 1-2 Vegalta Sendai
Kawasaki Frontale 0-3 Vissel Kobe

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Wednesday 07 September 2011

Persistent Japan take four points from opening two qualifiers

Japan made a slow but steady start to their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, earning a dramatic 1-0 victory at home to North Korea on Friday before drawing 1-1 away to Uzbekistan yesterday evening.

Maya Yoshida was the hero in Saitama with a 94th-minute winner to save the Samurai Blue’s blushes, while Shinji Okazaki secured a useful point from the tricky visit to Tashkent with a diving header midway through the second half after Server Djeparov had put the Uzbeks in front early on.

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni was forced to reshuffle his pack for the double-header after star midfielder Keisuke Honda withdrew from the squad due to a knee injury sustained playing for CSKA Moscow against city rivals Spartak. Kengo Nakamura also saw his recall after 11 months in the international wilderness ruined by a broken big toe.

With the Italian keen to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation with which Japan had been crowned champions of Asia this January, Yosuke Kashiwagi of Urawa Reds was chosen to start in the centre of the attacking midfield three against North Korea, with Shinji Kagawa moving out to the left.

But the home side were repeatedly frustrated by the Koreans’ defensive tactics, and Kashiwagi was withdrawn for Hiroshi Kiyotake on the hour mark after failing to impose himself on the match despite an energetic effort.

A straight red card for Pak Kwong-Ryong on 84 minutes set the stage for a late Japanese onslaught, and following a number of near misses, Kiyotake followed his pair of debut assists against South Korea last month by crossing for Yoshida to finally head home in the fourth of five additional minutes.

The VVV Venlo defender’s late intervention was reminiscent of his stoppage time equaliser against Jordan in the Asian Cup group stages, as well as the 92nd-minute Masashi Oguro strike that gave Japan a 2-1 victory over North Korea at the same Saitama Stadium in qualification for the 2006 World Cup almost seven years ago.

For the away match in Uzbekistan, Zaccheroni resisted the temptation to field Kiyotake from the start and instead chose to push captain Makoto Hasebe forward, with Yuki Abe of Leicester City filling his usual position alongside Yasuhito Endo at the base of midfield.

However, on a poor pitch that was hardly conducive to Japan’s usual passing game, the visitors appeared unbalanced and soon found themselves overrun in wide areas. Their hosts took advantage inside just eight minutes – skipper Djeparov scrambling home the loose ball after Yasuyuki Konno had failed to deal with a short cross from Alexander Geynrikh.

Hasebe was restored to a deeper-lying role later in the half as Japan looked to stem the tide by temporarily switching to 4-1-4-1, before Kiyotake replaced Abe at the interval to restore the team’s familiar shape.

The move brought greater balance to Zaccheroni’s men throughout a much-improved second half display, and the equaliser that arrived on 64 minutes was just about deserved. Overlapping from right back, Atsuto Uchida sent in a deep cross for Okazaki to meet with a header at virtually pitch level, and the ball squirmed over the line through the hands of Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.

The manager admitted afterwards, “It was an extremely difficult game. Uzbekistan is one of the fastest-growing football nations in Asia and, as I had expected, they proved to be a very good side.

“As for Japan, our positioning was poor in the first half and we allowed our opponents too much space. This improved in the second half, and I felt it was highly important that this team again put everything on the line to try and win the match at the end.”


- Maksim Shatskikh scored to give Uzbekistan a 1-0 win away to group minnows Tajikistan on Friday, while Pak Nam-Chol’s early goal ensured victory by the same margin for North Korea in Pyongyang yesterday. The results leave the Uzbeks joint top of Group C alongside Japan on four points, with the Koreans just behind on three.
- FC Tokyo and Tochigi SC remain level on 42 points at the top of J2 after a goalless draw in Kumagaya on Sunday.

2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying results (AFC Third Round)
Group C
Japan 1-0 North Korea
Tajikistan 0-1 Uzbekistan
North Korea 1-0 Tajikistan
Uzbekistan 1-1 Japan

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