Monday 24 October 2011

Reysol come from behind to demonstrate title quality

J1 leaders Kashiwa Reysol made a clear statement of intent in their bid to win the title just a year after promotion, as they came from behind to win 3-1 away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

After a goalless first half, former Reysol striker Tadanari Lee looked to have pushed his former club off track with a terrific opener for Sanfrecce twelve minutes into the second – twisting away from his marker before lofting the ball over goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno from almost 30 yards.

But the visitors remained calm and underlined their championship credentials with a valiant late fightback. Brazilian wide man Jorge Wagner equalised with a first-time, left-footed volley, before crossing for evergreen forward Hideaki Kitajima to beat Japan custodian Shusaku Nishikawa via a clever back-header on 82 minutes.

Kitajima sealed three vital points for Kashiwa five minutes later; reacting quickest to net the rebound after Nishikawa had failed to hold onto a free kick effort from Wagner.

Second-placed Gamba Osaka remain two points off the lead despite an easy 5-0 romp at Montedio Yamagata. Takahiro Futagawa got the 2005 champions off the mark on the half hour, before Lee Keun-Ho danced through the home side’s defence to double the advantage via a 1-2 with strike partner Rafinha.

The South Korean international then sent in a low cross for young left-back Hiroki Fujiharu to celebrate his first goal in professional football, while further strikes from Rafinha and substitute Shota Kawanishi took free-scoring Gamba’s seasonal goal tally to 71 from 30 games.

The result means that Yamagata will have to win all four of their remaining matches to have any hope of survival.

Reigning champions Nagoya Grampus edged a topsy-turvy battle at Omiya Ardija by 3-2 to stay just a point behind Gamba in third. Two goals in two second-half minutes from Keigo Higashi and Rafael gave the Squirrels a sudden 2-1 lead after Grampus had led through Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s third-minute opener, but Keiji Tamada found space in a crowded penalty area to level the scores again and set up a dramatic finale.

With just six minutes remaining, Yuki Fukaya foolishly held back Nagoya striker Joshua Kennedy in the penalty area, and the Australian dusted himself off to fire in his 16th league goal of the season from the spot.


Avispa Fukuoka saw their inevitable relegation confirmed with a 3-1 reverse at Albirex Niigata on Sunday afternoon. Hopes of a miracle recovery began to fade in only the second minute when midfielder Isao Honma curled in a spectacular opener for Albirex, while a second-half brace from Cho Young-Cheol sealed Avispa’s fate long before Yutaka Takahashi’s late consolation.

In their first season back in the top flight following a four-year absence, the Kyushu club have mustered just 18 points from their 30 games thus far, losing fully 22 of them.

With Yamagata almost certain to join them in J2 next season, the battle is on to escape the final spot in the bottom three, and Urawa Reds took a huge step towards survival by surprisingly winning 2-1 away to title outsiders Yokohama F Marinos.

The Reds, who fell into 16th position last weekend and subsequently fired manager Željko Petrović last Thursday, looked set for another day of struggle as Masashi Oguro put the home side in front just four minutes into the first half.

But Naoki Yamada gained a controversial opportunity to equalise early in the second after he was adjudged to have been felled by Marinos defender Yuzo Kobayashi. The 21-year-old’s penalty was comfortably saved, but Genki Haraguchi was able to steal in and fire home the rebound.

Urawa then sealed a priceless victory just after the hour mark – Tsukasa Umesaki leading a 3-on-2 breakaway from a quick restart and making space to hit a low strike past Hiroki Iikura.

Ventforet Kofu slipped back two points behind the safety line, on 30 points, after a comprehensive 3-0 loss at Shimizu S-Pulse 24 hours later. 14th-placed Omiya have 35 points, while Vissel Kobe slipped to 13th with a 1-1 draw at Kashima Antlers and cannot afford to relax yet on 37.

Elsewhere, Hiroshi Kiyotake returned after a month’s absence to help Cerezo Osaka to a crushing 4-0 away defeat of Jubilo Iwata.

- Cerezo forward Ryuji Bando equalled the J. League record by scoring for the ninth time as a substitute this season. His injury-time strike was also the 100th league goal of his career.
- FC Tokyo maintained their seven-point lead at the top of J2 thanks to a goalless draw away to second-placed Sagan Tosu. Tokushima Vortis moved into the third promotion spot after Consadole Sapporo suffered a shock loss at Gainare Tottori.

J1 results (matchday 30)
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Montedio Yamagata 0-5 Gamba Osaka
Omiya Ardija 2-3 Nagoya Grampus
Yokohama F Marinos 1-2 Urawa Reds
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-3 Kashiwa Reysol
Kashima Antlers 1-1 Vissel Kobe
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-0 Ventforet Kofu
Albirex Niigata 3-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Jubilo Iwata 0-4 Cerezo Osaka

AFC Champions League semi-final first leg results
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR) 0-2 Al-Sadd (QAT)
Al-Ittihad (KSA) 2-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)

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