Monday 05 December 2011

Kashiwa Reysol clinch historic J2-J1 double



Kashiwa Reysol have clinched a historic first ever J. League title just twelve months after winning promotion back to the top flight as J2 champions, following a 3-1 victory away to Urawa Reds on Saturday afternoon.

The Sun Kings went into the final day of the season with their destiny in their own hands, but knowing that their advantage at the top was precarious enough that either Nagoya Grampus or Gamba Osaka could steal in unless they secured all three points against an Urawa side still not 100% guaranteed of survival.

But if Kashiwa were feeling the pressure, they rarely showed it throughout an afternoon on which they dominated their opponents and never once even fell from the summit of the provisional table.

The opening goal arrived in somewhat frantic circumstances just before the half hour mark. Naoya Kondo’s header from a Jorge Wagner corner was cleared off the line into the path of Leandro Domingues, whose shot then struck the upright and rebounded back to Wagner. From an acute angle, the Brazilian blasted the ball between Nobuhiro Kato’s legs and into the net off the inside of the goalkeeper’s left knee.

A delicate overhead kick by Wataru Hashimoto nine minutes later gave Kashiwa a deserved 2-0 lead at half time, but Yosuke Kashiwagi ensured that the second period would not be without tension – in the stands, at least – when his header halved the deficit eight minutes after the restart.

Despite outshooting the home side by an overwhelming 25 attempts to four, it took until a quarter of an hour from time – and a horrendous goalkeeping error – for Reysol’s glory to be finally secured. Akimi Barada’s speculative 25-yard effort lacked pace but Kato appeared to misjudge the bounce of the ball before his feet and embarrassingly spooned it with both hands into the net behind.

The precise manner of the goals mattered not, however, for Kashiwa had once again risen to the occasion when it counted most to seal a title few had ever believed possible.

The architect of their triumph, Brazilian manager Nelsinho Baptista, appeared absolutely delighted at his post-match press conference in Saitama.

“I am very satisfied that we have managed to remain in or close to a title-winning position throughout the entire 2011 season,” said Nelsinho. “It gives me great pride to end up as champions of such a difficult league. I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of the players that have fought all year to achieve this success.”

Last year’s champions Nagoya finished a point behind in second despite winning 1-0 at Albirex Niigata thanks to a sweetly-taken free kick by Keiji Tamada. Gamba put in a fine attacking performance to beat Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 at Nihondaira – Lee Keun-Ho starring with two goals and an assist – but other results meant this was ultimately only good enough for third place.

Kashiwa’s title victory has also earned them the right to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup as representatives of the host nation. Their campaign will get under way this Thursday with a first round match against Auckland City of New Zealand in Toyota.

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Ventforet Kofu will join long-since-relegated Avispa Fukuoka and Montedio Yamagata in the second tier next season following their 3-1 final day defeat at Omiya Ardija. Even with Urawa’s loss, the Yamanashi side would have needed an unlikely 12-goal victory to ensure their survival.

Alongside J2 champions FC Tokyo, the bottom three will be replaced in the top flight by Sagan Tosu and Consadole Sapporo, who respectively achieved the results they required to confirm promotion earlier on Saturday.

Tosu drew 2-2 at home to Roasso Kumamoto, while Sapporo beat FC Tokyo 2-1 to end the hopes of Tokushima Vortis, who slipped to a late 1-0 loss at Fagiano Okayama.

Elsewhere in J1, Vegalta Sendai beat Vissel Kobe 2-0 to leapfrog Yokohama F Marinos into fourth position after the latter could only draw 1-1 at home to Kashima Antlers.

Cerezo Osaka thrashed Fukuoka 7-1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima won 3-1 in Yamagata, while Jubilo Iwata edged a 2-1 victory over Kawasaki Frontale.


TALKING POINTS
- Matsumoto Yamaga of the third-tier Japan Football League guaranteed their elevation to J2, subject to the final approval of the J. League later this month, with a 2-0 win over Honda Lock on Sunday.
- Kashima Antlers announced on Monday that manager Oswaldo de Oliveira, who led the side to three consecutive league titles from 2007 to 2009, will not remain at the club next season. His departure follows that of Akira Nishino, another former championship-winning manager, from Gamba Osaka.


The Football Japan Minutecast’s Ben Mabley tells the story of Japanese club football through eight previous thrilling title races in Issue Three of The Blizzard, which is out later this week. Visit www.theblizzard.co.uk for details.


J1 results (matchday 34)
Vegalta Sendai 2-0 Vissel Kobe
Montedio Yamagata 1-3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 1-3 Kashiwa Reysol
Omiya Ardija 3-1 Ventforet Kofu
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Albirex Niigata 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-3 Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 2-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Cerezo Osaka 7-1 Avispa Fukuoka


J1 final standings
1) KASHIWA REYSOL 72
2) Nagoya Grampus 71
3) Gamba Osaka 70
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4) Vegalta Sendai 56
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5) Yokohama F Marinos 56
6) Kashima Antlers 50
7) Sanfrecce Hiroshima 50
8) Jubilo Iwata 47
9) Vissel Kobe 46
10) Shimizu S-Pulse 45
11) Kawasaki Frontale 44
12) Cerezo Osaka 43
13) Omiya Ardija 42
14) Albirex Niigata 39
15) Urawa Reds 36
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16) Ventforet Kofu 33
17) Avispa Fukuoka 22
18) Montedio Yamagata 21


J2 final standings
1) FC TOKYO 77
2) Sagan Tosu 69
3) Consadole Sapporo 68
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4) Tokushima Vortis 65
5) Tokyo Verdy 59
6) JEF United Chiba 58
7) Kyoto Sanga 58
8) Giravanz Kitakyushu 58
9) Thespa Kusatsu 57
10) Tochigi SC 56
11) Roasso Kumamoto 51
12) Oita Trinita 50
13) Fagiano Okayama 48
14) Shonan Bellmare 46
15) Ehime FC 44
16) Kataller Toyama 43
17) Mito HollyHock 42
18) Yokohama FC 41
19) Gainare Tottori 31
20) FC Gifu 24

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