Monday 23 April 2012

‘Urawa killer’ strikes again to give Omiya more derby honours

Omiya Ardija inflicted a first league defeat since opening day upon neighbours Urawa Reds as Cho Young-Cheol registered a goal and an assist en route to their 2-0 victory in Saturday’s Saitama derby.

A pre-season arrival from Albirex Niigata, the South Korean international cut inside Japan defender Yuki Abe from the left flank to fire a low right-footed shot across Reds goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato and in off the far post after just eight minutes.

Cho then sent in a perfect deep cross for Rafael to head the home side at the NACK5 Stadium into a two-goal advantage twenty minutes later. It was the Brazilian’s seventh strike in just six matches against Omiya’s local rivals.

Urawa manager Mihailo Petrović sent on Genki Haraguchi for the visitors to seize the attacking initiative in the second half, but an inspired performance from Takashi Kitano in the Ardija goal ensured that there was no way back for the visitors, who slip to sixth in the table.

The result allowed Vegalta Sendai to pull out a five-point lead at the top with a 4-0 hammering of FC Tokyo later the same evening. Shingo Akamine opened the scoring right at the end of the first period, before Kunimitsu Sekiguchi headed home his third goal in as many games to double the lead on 58 minutes.

Yoshiaki Ota and Jiro Kamata rounded off the scoring late on to take Sendai’s record to six wins and one draw from their opening seven league games.

2010 champions Nagoya Grampus move up to second despite the concession of a 94th-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw away to fourth-placed Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Ryota Moriwaki hit an unstoppable 25-yard shot in off the crossbar to rescue a point after Hayuma Tanaka’s acute header had seemingly put Nagoya on course for all three.

Jubilo Iwata are third thanks to a stunning Hiroki Yamada effort to give them a 1-0 victory at home to winless Yokohama F Marinos. The 23-year-old, who has been called up to the Japan squad for a training camp this week, dribbled past two opponents before smashing the ball through a crowd of defenders and into the roof of the net from the left-hand corner of the box.


Consadole Sapporo looked on course for their first win of the season as they led Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 at half time, only for Kengo Nakamura to come off the bench and inspire a comeback akin to that which his side had suffered at Gamba Osaka last week.

The 31-year-old midfielder pulled one back with his first touch of the ball to reverse the momentum of the match, and Kawasaki were level from the spot through Renato ten minutes later to set up a grandstand finish. Another substitute, Koji Yamase, fired home on 88 minutes to complete the recovery and break home fans’ hearts.

Kashima Antlers also fought back from two down to move out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over Cerezo Osaka. Kim Bo-Kyung’s first half brace counted for nought as strikes from Dutra, Shinzo Koroki, and Yasushi Endo turned around a match that threatened to boil over for much of the second period.

Newly-promoted Sagan Tosu moved up to an incredible fifth position thanks to a 1-0 victory against third-from-bottom Albirex Niigata. The game was also notable for the league debut of Koki Kiyotake, younger brother of Cerezo and Japan star Hiroshi.

Elsewhere, Gamba followed up their first domestic win of the season with a comfortable second, beating Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 at Banpaku on Sunday evening, while Vissel Kobe broke their run of six straight losses in all competitions when overcoming Kashiwa Reysol by the same scoreline. The champions have begun their defence with just seven points from as many matches and sit a dozen places and points adrift of the summit.

- Shonan Bellmare kept up their superb start to the J2 season, winning 2-1 at Tokyo Verdy to move six points clear of Montedio Yamagata at the top.
- Shinji Kagawa scored his 13th Bundesliga goal of the campaign to help seal a second straight German title for Borussia Dortmund as they beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0 on Saturday.

J1 results (matchday 7)
Consadole Sapporo 2-3 Kawasaki Frontale
Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Vissel Kobe 3-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
Kashima Antlers 3-2 Cerezo Osaka
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Omiya Ardija 2-0 Urawa Reds
Vegalta Sendai 4-0 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka 3-1 Shimizu S-Pulse

J2 results (matchday 9)
Mito HollyHock 1-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Tochigi SC 1-1 FC Gifu
Ventforet Kofu 1-1 Machida Zelvia
Ehime FC 0-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Giravanz Kitakyushu 0-1 Montedio Yamagata
Yokohama FC 2-1 Kyoto Sanga
Tokyo Verdy 1-2 Shonan Bellmare
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-0 JEF United Chiba
Kataller Toyama 2-3 Oita Trinita
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Gainare Tottori
Tokushima Vortis 0-4 Avispa Fukuoka

AFC Champions League group stage results (East Asia, matchday 4)
Group E
Adelaide United (AUS) 1-0 Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Bunyodkor (UZB) 3-2 Gamba Osaka (JPN)

Group F
Brisbane Roar (AUS) 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai (KOR)
FC Tokyo (JPN) 3-0 Beijing Guoan (CHN)

Group G
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 0-0 Tianjin Teda (CHN)
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR) 5-0 Central Coast Mariners (AUS)

Group H
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) 3-2 Buriram United (THA)
Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 3-1 Kashiwa Reysol (JPN)

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup group stage results (matchday 2)
Group A
Kawasaki Frontale 3-1 Vegalta Sendai
Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 1-4 Cerezo Osaka

Group B
Consadole Sapporo 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Albirex Niigata 1-0 Vissel Kobe
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Yokohama F Marinos

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Monday 16 April 2012

Leaders edge champions in free-scoring J1 weekend

After a relatively low key start to the 2012 season, the J. League burst into life on Saturday with 28 goals scored across the nine top flight matches. Early leaders Vegalta Sendai issued a statement of intent to the rest of the division with a 3-2 victory away to reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol.

The visitors took the lead after just two minutes when a corner from Yoshiaki Ota found the head of Vegalta defender Naoki Sugai. Leandro Domingues levelled the scores with a fabulous free kick early in the second half, but Kashiwa were behind again almost immediately thanks to a second goal in as many matches from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi after Wilson’s skilful footwork tore a hole through the defence.

Leandro equalised again, somewhat bizarrely, when his half-hearted attempt from a narrow angle somehow squirmed through the legs of Takuto Hayashi in the visitors’ goal. But Shingo Akamine was on hand to seal all three points for Sendai from another Ota cross, and the champions’ misery was complete when Leandro was sent off for a second yellow card late on.

Shimizu S-Pulse leapfrogged local rivals Jubilo Iwata into sixth place in the middle of the chasing pack with a 3-2 win in the first Shizuoka derby of the year.

The home side at Nihondaira recovered from the concession of a Cho Byung-Kuk opener to equalise through Toshiyuki Takagi right on half time, before two well taken goals by Genki Omae bookended the second 45 minutes and gave S-Pulse an unassailable advantage despite an even later consolation strike by Kosuke Yamamoto.

In the weekend’s third 3-2 scoreline, Gamba Osaka finally secured three points for the first time this season thanks to a dramatic comeback against manager-less Kawasaki Frontale.

Despite the midweek sacking of former boss Naoki Soma, Kawasaki came out of the blocks quickly to lead after just 19 seconds through Yusuke Sakata’s header, before Yu Kobayashi was left totally unmarked at a Sakata corner on the half hour to seemingly push Gamba towards their fifth league defeat in six.

But a Sota Nakazawa header at the end of the first half restored hope for Masanobu Matsunami’s men, who rose to the occasion to turn things around in the second period thanks to goals from new boys Akihiro Sato and Hiroyuki Abe.


Kashima Antlers moved off the foot of the table with their first win of the season away to highflying FC Tokyo.

After Shinzo Koroki dinked the visitors into a first half lead, Tokyo levelled in unusual fashion with just six minutes remaining when Sotan Tanabe eventually fired the ball in through a melee of players at an indirect free kick awarded when Hitoshi Sogahata handled a back pass.

Hitoshi Shiota had committed a similar offence earlier in the match after replacing the injured Shuichi Gonda, but although the hosts had survived on that occasion, his day was ruined when a poor parry from Juninho’s attempt left an open goal for Yasushi Endo to win it deep into stoppage time.

With Sanfrecce Hiroshima also losing 1-0 away to the impressive J1 newcomers Sagan Tosu, Urawa Reds took advantage to move up as high as second with a 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe. Yuki Abe netted his first goal since returning from Leicester City, while Marcio Richardes converted a trademark free kick late on.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus rose to third with a comfortable 3-1 win over Consadole Sapporo, who drop to the bottom. Cerezo Osaka surprisingly succumbed to Albirex Niigata’s first victory of the campaign, while winless Yokohama F Marinos played out a 1-1 draw with Omiya Ardija.

- Shonan Bellmare maintained their unbeaten start in J2, defeating Yokohama FC 3-2 to stand four points clear of Kyoto Sanga at the summit.
- Shinji Kagawa’s Borussia Dortmund need just one more point to seal their second straight Bundesliga crown after coming from behind to edge Atsuto Uchida’s Schalke 04 2-1 in the Ruhr derby.
- In women’s football, Nadeshiko League champions INAC Kobe Leonessa began the defence of their title in spectacular fashion with a 7-0 thrashing of newly-promoted Speranza FC Osaka Takatsuki on Sunday afternoon.

J1 results (matchday 6)
Kashiwa Reysol 2-3 Vegalta Sendai
FC Tokyo 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 2-0 Vissel Kobe
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Jubilo Iwata
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Consadole Sapporo
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Gamba Osaka 3-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Albirex Niigata

J2 results (matchday 8)
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Ehime FC
Machida Zelvia 0-3 Tochigi SC
Roasso Kumamoto 0-3 Matsumoto Yamaga
Kyoto Sanga 1-0 Tokyo Verdy
JEF United Chiba 0-0 Fagiano Okayama
Shonan Bellmare 3-2 Yokohama FC
FC Gifu 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Gainare Tottori 0-0 Ventforet Kofu
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Mito HollyHock
Oita Trinita 0-0 Tokushima Vortis

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Monday 09 April 2012

Last gasp Vegalta retain hold on summit in clash of the top two

Vegalta Sendai lost their perfect start to the season but managed to hold onto top spot thanks to a late, late equaliser from Wilson in their topsy-turvy 2-2 draw with closest rivals Jubilo Iwata.

The league leaders exercised their home advantage to gradually take control of the game, and thought they had finally broken the deadlock early in the second half when Wilson converted from Shingo Akamine’s pinpoint pass, only to see the linesman’s flag raised for a narrow offside.

Incredibly, Iwata were the ones to open the scoring a few minutes later with their first attempt of the game. Minoru Suganuma was left unmarked at the far post to just about bundle a Hiroki Yamada cross over the line, via the post and Sendai goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.

Vegalta finally found their way level with a quarter of an hour remaining through Kunimitsu Sekiguchi – a popular return to form for the 26-year-old after failing to register a single goal or assist in 2011 – and looked set to push for the win; only to fall behind again to Jubilo’s second shot on goal four minutes later. Kosuke Yamamoto took advantage of a standoffish defence to fire home from the D.

At this point, the home side appeared to lose their rhythm and entered the last of five added minutes without coming close to a second equaliser. But with seconds on the clock, Wilson expertly chested down a hopeful long ball from Naoki Sugai before somehow managing to turn and squeeze it home past Naoki Hatta.


FC Tokyo overcame a second yellow card for Aria Jasuru Hasegawa – who was returning from a one-match ban after a similar sanction against Vissel Kobe a fortnight ago – to clinch a dramatic late win at Kawasaki Frontale and move within a point of the summit. Masato Morishige was the hero with a towering header from Naohiro Ishikawa’s corner.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima rose to second, ahead of FC Tokyo on goal difference, with a 4-1 victory over Gamba Osaka, who fall to second from bottom.

Jorginho only had to wait two minutes to finally see his Kashima Antlers notch their first league goal of the season against Urawa Reds, but their troubles continued as they conspired to fall behind just three minutes later. Shinzo Koroki’s early header was immediately cancelled out by Marcio Richardes, before Popo gave the away side the lead following brilliant work from Yuki Abe and Yosuke Kashiwagi.

Richardes netted from the spot later in the first half to seal a 3-1 Urawa win that keeps Kashima rooted to the bottom.

Cerezo Osaka needed a Hiroshi Kiyotake penalty to break down the hosts’ resistance in their game at Omiya Ardija, but demonstrated their fine attacking potential with two goals from Kim Bo-Kyung soon thereafter to win 3-0 and move up to fifth.

Elsewhere, champions Kashiwa Reysol won 2-0 at Consadole Sapporo to seal only their second three points of the season, while Nagoya Grampus had an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki to thank for a 1-0 home victory over newly-promoted Sagan Tosu.

A late Alex Brosque strike enabled Shimizu S-Pulse to edge past Vissel Kobe, while Yokohama F Marinos played out a second successive 0-0 draw – this time away to Albirex Niigata.

- A 4-1 thrashing of the Brazil women’s team on Thursday sealed Kirin Challenge Cup success for Nadeshiko Japan – and a welcome boost ahead of the London Olympics.
- FC Tokyo, Nagoya Grampus, and Kashiwa Reysol are all in position to progress through from the AFC Champions League group stage at the halfway mark, while Gamba Osaka revived their chances with a 3-1 win over Uzbekistani outfit Bunyodkor.

J1 results (matchday 5)
Consadole Sapporo 0-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Jubilo Iwata
Nagoya Grampus 1-0 Sagan Tosu
Vissel Kobe 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Albirex Niigata 0-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Omiya Ardija 0-3 Cerezo Osaka
Kashima Antlers 1-3 Urawa Reds
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-1 Gamba Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 7)
Mito HollyHock 0-1 JEF United Chiba
Tochigi SC 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Tokyo Verdy 2-0 Tokushima Vortis
Fagiano Okayama 1-0 Matsumoto Yamaga
Ehime FC 4-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-0 Gainare Tottori
Yokohama FC 1-2 Montedio Yamagata
Shonan Bellmare 2-0 Machida Zelvia
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Oita Trinita
Kataller Toyama 1-2 Thespa Kusatsu
FC Gifu 0-1 Kyoto Sanga

AFC Champions League group stage results (East Asia, matchday 3)
Group E
Gamba Osaka (JPN) 3-1 Bunyodkor (UZB)
Pohang Steelers (KOR) 1-0 Adelaide United (AUS)

Group F
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) 1-1 Brisbane Roar (AUS)
Beijing Guoan (CHN) 1-1 FC Tokyo (JPN)

Group G
Central Coast Mariners (AUS) 1-1 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR)
Tianjin Teda (CHN) 0-3 Nagoya Grampus (JPN)

Group H
Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 0-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
Buriram United (THA) 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup group stage results (matchday 2)
Group A
Vegalta Sendai 2-0 Sagan Tosu
Jubilo Iwata 4-3 Urawa Reds
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale

Group B
Kashima Antlers 1-0 Omiya Ardija
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Yokohama F Marinos 1-2 Consadole Sapporo

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Monday 02 April 2012

Table-topping Sendai extend perfect record to four from four

Vegalta Sendai stand clear atop the J. League table after extending their 100% record to a fourth weekend with a 2-1 win away to Cerezo Osaka on Saturday.

Makoto Teguramori’s side survived an early scare when a Hiroshi Kiyotake volley struck their crossbar and opened the scoring themselves on 34 minutes. Wilson carried the ball along the left flank and laid it off for Shingo Akamine to attempt a shot through a crowd of defenders, which then rebounded kindly for the Brazilian to net his first goal since arriving from Shaanxi Chan-Ba of China over the winter.

More efficient counterattacking play brought Sendai their second shortly after the interval. Yoshiaki Ota beat two players and sent in a cross from the right that Hotaru Yamaguchi could only nod into the path of an unmarked Akamine, leaving goalkeeper Kim Jin-Kyeon in no-man’s land for the striker to convert with a simple header.

Cerezo battled hard to get back into the game but their only reward came in the form of a consolation strike from supersub Ryuji Bando five minutes from time.

Newly promoted Sagan Tosu provided the biggest victory and surprise of the weekend, thrashing big-spending Vissel Kobe 3-0 to move up to fifth position in their debut J1 season.

All three of their goals arrived via crosses from the right-hand side, with Kei Ikeda playing the ball across for the 24th-minute substitute Ryunosuke Noda to slide in at the far post for the opener within moments of his arrival. Last season’s 23-goal hero Yohei Toyoda converted in confident fashion just before the break, while Ikeda rounded off a fine performance with the third right on full time.


Jubilo Iwata are in second place with 10 points from a possible 12 after a 1-0 win over defending champions Kashiwa Reysol, whose title defence has begun somewhat inauspiciously with just four points from as many matches.

Japan forward Ryoichi Maeda played Takuya Matsuura into space on the right flank, and continued his run towards the far post to divert a low return pass beyond Takanori Sugeno.

FC Tokyo suffered their first reverse since returning to the top flight with a 1-0 home loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who join them on nine points to round off the top four. Mihael Mikić rolled a perfect low cross ahead of three opposing defenders for Hisato Sato to slot home the only goal after 56 minutes.

Jun Kanakubo cancelled out a glorious opener from Danilson to earn Omiya Ardija a creditable point at home to Nagoya Grampus, while neighbours Urawa Reds were left clinging on to draw 1-1 with Kawasaki Frontale after new signings Yuki Abe and Tomoaki Makino both saw red for two bookable offences in the second period.

Seven-times champions Kashima Antlers are still goalless but do at least now have their first point under Jorginho following a 0-0 draw at Yokohama F Marinos. They sit at the foot of the table on goal difference beneath Consadole Sapporo, who lost 1-0 away to Shimizu S-Pulse.

A 1-1 draw also brought first points of the season for both Albirex Niigata and Gamba Osaka. New Gamba boss Masanobu Matsunami expressed his satisfaction at the team’s performance in his first game in charge since replacing the hapless José Carlos Serrão last week.

- Shinji Kagawa netted the first in a thrilling 4-4 draw for Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund at home to Gotoku Sakai’s VfB Stuttgart. His goal takes him to 12 league strikes for the season – a record for any Japanese player in a major European competition.
- Shonan Bellmare won 2-1 at Gainare Tottori to retain top spot in J2. Tokyo Verdy are three points back in second following their 2-1 victory away to new local rivals Machida Zelvia.

J1 results (matchday 4)
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
FC Tokyo 0-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka 1-2 Vegalta Sendai
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Consadole Sapporo
Yokohama F Marinos 0-0 Kashima Antlers
Sagan Tosu 3-0 Vissel Kobe

J2 results (matchday 6)
Montedio Yamagata 0-0 Mito HollyHock
Tochigi SC 2-1 JEF United Chiba
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-3 Kataller Toyama
Kyoto Sanga 3-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Gainare Tottori 1-2 Shonan Bellmare
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 FC Gifu
Thespa Kusatsu 1-1 Yokohama FC
Machida Zelvia 1-2 Tokyo Verdy
Ventforet Kofu 1-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Tokushima Vortis 1-2 Fagiano Okayama
Oita Trinita 1-0 Ehime FC

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