Monday 02 July 2012

Sendai and Sanfrecce share spoils in sensational summit contest



Vegalta Sendai and Sanfrecce Hiroshima put on a show worthy of the best two sides in the country, drawing 2-2 in a thrilling top-of-the-table clash at the Yurtec Stadium on Saturday evening.

The home side and current league leaders began the game brightly and opened the scoring after 11 minutes. Collecting a forward pass from Makoto Kakuda, Wilson played a 1-2 with the returning Shingo Akamine to escape a crowd of four Hiroshima defenders and calmly fired the ball past Shusaku Nishikawa.

Sanfrecce were almost level with their first attempt of the game four minutes later, when J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato headed a Ryota Moriwaki cross onto the post with Takuto Hayashi beaten.

But Sato made no mistake in first half injury time when he pounced on another cross from the right flank, this time by Mihael Mikić, to volley home the equaliser with the outside of his left foot.

Hiroshima maintained their rhythm going into the second period, and even a dead leg for Sato became a blessing in disguise when his replacement, Koji Morisaki, immediately put the visitors in front on 65 minutes.

Yojiro Takahagi expertly collected a cross from Takahiro Aoyama on the edge of the penalty area to loft a side-footed volley over the Sendai defensive line, and into the path of the onside Morisaki to slide the ball inside the post.

However, the celebrations in the Morisaki household turned to despair with ten minutes remaining when Koji’s twin brother Kazuyuki slipped as he attempted to play the ball back to his goalkeeper. Wilson stole in to round Nishikawa, roll it into the empty net, and restore parity at 2-2.

A match that ebbed and flowed so nearly had a dramatic winner, when Ryang Yong-Gi’s free kick for Vegalta was cleared and Hwang Seok-Ho swept the ball forwards for an unmarked Hironori Ishikawa to break clear for Sanfrecce.

But the 24-year-old’s shot struck the crossbar, and both teams had to settle for a point that allows some of their rivals to close in.

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One side storming up the table since elimination from the Asian Champions League is defending champions Kashiwa Reysol, who followed up a 1-0 win at FC Tokyo in their game in hand last Wednesday by thrashing Gamba Osaka 6-2 at a rainy Banpaku.

Masakatsu Sawa was the hero with a well-taken hat-trick, stunning the beleaguered hosts by slotting the ball through Yosuke Fujigaya’s legs then taking advantage of the goalkeeper’s hopelessly weak parry to put Reysol two up within seven minutes.

Masato Kudo made it three from a tight angle on 20 minutes, but after coming back triumphantly from two down to draw with Nagoya Grampus in midweek, Gamba set off on another recovery charge as goals from Yasuhito Endo and Akihiro Sato reduced the deficit to 2-3 at half-time.

However, the Osakans’ momentum was halted when Leandro Domingues languidly fired home a perfect spinning volley ten minutes after the restart. Further goals by Sawa and Junya Tanaka, both from Koki Mizuno crosses on the counter attack, completed Gamba’s worst home defeat since losing 7-1 to the same opposition back in May 1996.

The result, which sees Kashiwa move to within five points of the leaders in fourth, was a perfect send-off for right-back Hiroki Sakai, who made his final appearance for the club before flying out to join German side Hannover 96 on Sunday.

Joining Sakai on the same flight was Nuremburg-bound Hiroshi Kiyotake, who made his farewell appearance for Cerezo Osaka in a 1-1 home draw with Urawa Reds.

Jubilo Iwata moved up to third, ahead of both Kashiwa and Urawa on goal difference, with a convincing 3-1 victory over FC Tokyo, but Kawasaki Frontale missed a great opportunity to close on the top two as they fell down to sixth after a 1-0 home loss to Vissel Kobe.

Ken Tokura fired home a spectacular late winner from 30 yards and celebrated by mimicking the muscle-flexing of Mario Balotelli during Italy’s Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany.

Elsewhere, Nagoya could only draw 1-1 at Yokohama F Marinos to stay seven points off the summit in seventh position, but Sagan Tosu are back in the top half after Kota Mizunuma’s 95th-minute winner against the unfortunate Consadole Sapporo.

Omiya Ardija moved six points clear of danger with a similarly late 1-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse – Daigo Watanabe their hero – while Albirex Niigata picked up a creditable point at home to Kashima Antlers.

TALKING POINTS
- Takashi Sekizuka will name his Japan squad of 18 to take to the Olympic Games in London later on Monday.
- Cerezo Osaka and Vegalta Sendai each enjoyed big wins on Wednesday to seal their places in the quarter-finals of the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup alongside Shimizu S-Pulse, Kashima Antlers, and the four Champions League representatives.
- Tokyo Verdy moved two points clear at the head of J2 after a 2-0 win over Mito HollyHock, with Shonan Bellmare only able to draw 1-1 with Matsumoto Yamaga.


J1 results (matchday 16)
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Omiya Ardija 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Jubilo Iwata 3-1 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka 2-6 Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Urawa Reds
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Consadole Sapporo


J1 results (matchday 9 – Wednesday 27 June)
FC Tokyo 0-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Nagoya Grampus


J2 results (matchday 22)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Montedio Yamagata
Tokyo Verdy 2-0 Mito HollyHock
Machida Zelvia 0-4 Yokohama FC
Ventforet Kofu 0-0 FC Gifu
Gainare Tottori 1-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 Ehime FC
Oita Trinita 1-1 Kataller Toyama
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Tokushima Vortis 0-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Kyoto Sanga 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Roasso Kumamoto 1-0 JEF United Chiba


Yamazaki Nabisco Cup results
Group A

Vegalta Sendai 4-0 Jubilo Iwata
Urawa Reds 3-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Cerezo Osaka 5-0 Sagan Tosu
Final standings: CEREZO OSAKA 12, VEGALTA SENDAI 12, Jubilo Iwata 12, Urawa Reds 9, Sagan Tosu 9, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4, Kawasaki Frontale 4

Group B
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Albirex Niigata 4-3 Omiya Ardija
Vissel Kobe 3-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Final standings: SHIMIZU S-PULSE 15, KASHIMA ANTLERS 15, Albirex Niigata 10, Yokohama F Marinos 5, Omiya Ardija 5, Consadole Sapporo 5, Vissel Kobe 4

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