Monday 17 October 2011

Kashiwa leapfrog Gamba into top spot as Urawa drop into bottom three

Reigning J2 champions Kashiwa Reysol returned to the top of J1 with five matches to play following defeat for previous leaders Gamba Osaka at Nagoya Grampus, while Urawa Reds – Japan’s most popular club – slipped into the bottom three with a dramatic derby day loss against Omiya Ardija.

Four points off the pace heading into the weekend, Grampus knew defeat was unthinkable in order to retain realistic hopes of defending their J. League crown. They were gifted the perfect start on 11 minutes when a fluffed clearance by Gamba ’keeper Yosuke Fujigaya allowed Keiji Tamada to steal in and square for Naoshi Nakamura to score the opener.

Gamba fought back to level midway through the first half through Tomokazu Myojin after a darting break from Korean forward Lee Keun-Ho, but their recent history of goalkeeping mishaps in this fixture continued early in the second as Fujigaya allowed a low corner kick from Jungo Fujimoto to curl inside his near post without touching another player.

Nakamura dispossessed Yasuhito Endo to double the home side’s advantage with a dipping effort from 25 yards, before Fujimoto completed a fine team move with his second and Nagoya’s fourth late on.

The 4-1 scoreline was slightly harsh on Gamba but received enthusiastically in Kashiwa, where Reysol knew victory in their match with second-from-bottom Montedio Yamagata 24 hours later would allow them to move into a two-point lead at the top.

Nelsinho Baptista’s men were strangely off par and only managed to register four goal attempts all game, but gained the one opportunity that mattered on 33 minutes when Yamagata defender Hidenori Ishii was controversially adjudged to have impeded Tatsuya Masushima in the penalty area. Jorge Wagner converted from the spot to give Kashiwa an invaluable 1-0 win.

Fourth-placed Yokohama F Marinos fell seven points off the new leaders’ pace as a late strike from Georgian midfielder David Mujiri earned a point at the Nissan Stadium for Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Vegalta Sendai are now just two points further back in fifth after a brace from Toshihiro Matsushita sent them on the way to a 3-0 victory at Avispa Fukuoka – and a club record sixth J1 win on the bounce.


At the opposite end of the table, Ventforet Kofu put real pressure on the sides above them by opening the weekend with a 4-0 hammering of Cerezo Osaka away at the Kincho Stadium.

Paulinho burst through to give the visitors the lead on just two minutes, before sending in a low cross for man-of-the-moment Mike Havenaar to score the second just before the half-hour mark. The Japan forward of Dutch parentage later matched his brace against Tajikistan last week with Kofu’s third, before substitute Yusuke Inuzuka completed the scoring in second half stoppage time.

This took Ventforet out of the bottom three ahead of the Saitama derby, with Urawa now a point behind the safety line but knowing victory in front of a home crowd of over 34,000 would not only leapfrog them back over Havenaar and company, but also their opponents and neighbours, Omiya.

However, the Reds once again lacked any real potency in attacking areas, and they were made to pay with six minutes remaining when Hayato Hashimoto sent in a cross for Rafael to rise highest and head the visitors into a decisive 1-0 lead.

The result means that Urawa remain on just 29 points from as many games, with Kofu’s perfectly-timed run of form taking them to 30. Omiya now have a six-point safety margin on 35 where they are joined by Albirex Niigata, who eked out a crucial 2-1 win at Kawasaki Frontale despite a second yellow card for the unfortunate Naoya Kikuchi.

Elsewhere, an own goal by Shuto Yamamoto helped Kashima Antlers to a rather lucky 2-1 victory at Jubilo Iwata, while Vissel Kobe drew 1-1 at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.

- Sagan Tosu won 1-0 away to Consadole Sapporo to move above their opponents into second place in J2 on goal difference. Both clubs are, however, still seven points adrift of leaders FC Tokyo, who thumped Fagiano Okayama 3-0.

J1 results (matchday 29)
Cerezo Osaka 0-4 Ventforet Kofu
Jubilo Iwata 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 0-1 Omiya Ardija
Nagoya Grampus 4-1 Gamba Osaka
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Avispa Fukuoka 0-3 Vegalta Sendai
Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 Montedio Yamagata
Kawasaki Frontale 1-2 Albirex Niigata

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