Monday 09 July 2012

Key victory for Sanfrecce but efficient Vegalta hold onto top spot



Sanfrecce Hiroshima established themselves as the closest challengers to J1 leaders Vegalta Sendai at the midway point of the season with a 2-0 victory at home to Jubilo Iwata.

With the two sides respectively in second and third place at the start of play, the match remained a tense, even contest until a sensational passing move finally forced Hiroshima in front with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

Yojiro Takahagi, Koji Nakajima, and Naoki Ishihara combined with speed and precision to play the ball towards the Iwata penalty area, where Hisato Sato cleverly backheeled into the path of the on-running Nakajima. The substitute midfielder took one touch to free enough space for a quick finish into the far corner.

Koji Morisaki made sure of the points with a fine turn and shot from 25 yards at the end of added time.

The result drops Jubilo all the way down to sixth, while Sanfrecce remain two points off the top after Sendai won 1-0 away to Vissel Kobe.

Makoto Teguramori’s side were made to work hard, retreating into their defensive third under Kobe pressure for sustained periods, but their back four and goalkeeper remained typically resistant and a single Shingo Akamine strike was enough for victory.

Ryang Yong-Gi played a 1-2 with Makoto Kakuda to run in behind the hosts’ defence from the left flank and play the ball across the six-yard line for Akamine to slot home at the far post.

Nagoya Grampus moved up to fourth after beating Kashiwa Reysol in a battle of the last two championship winners at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Kensuke Nagai lit up the game in only the ninth minute when his burst into the penalty area took four opponents out of the equation as he crossed the ball for Joshua Kennedy to deftly backheel in the opener between two Kashiwa defenders on the line.

Reysol were level when Leandro Domingues arrived at the near post to flick a corner from Jorge Wagner inside the far, but the game was decided when captain Hidekazu Otani performed the same feat from an almost identical position – only after the sides had switched ends for the second half.

The unfortunate own goal puts an end to the champions’ seven-match unbeaten run and sees them fall to seventh.

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Urawa Reds are up to third, five points behind Sendai, but were somewhat relieved to emerge with victory over Sagan Tosu after almost surrendering a four-goal advantage.

Genki Haraguchi had a point to prove after missing the cut for the London Olympics squad, and started emphatically when his seventh-minute shot hit the post only for Tsukasa Umesaki to net the rebound.

A superb through ball from inside Reds territory by Yosuke Kashiwagi sent in Tadaaki Hirakawa to finish in style from a difficult angle, before an emotional Haraguchi added two of his own in the following four minutes to send his side into a 4-0 lead.

But a header from Sagan’s Brazilian forward Tozin midway through the second half triggered another crazy four-minute spell, as Naoyuki Fujita scored twice in quick succession to cut the deficit to just 4-3 before Urawa held on for a nervy last 20 minutes.

Albirex Niigata are back to within three points of safety after a 1-0 win away to hapless Consadole Sapporo, who have now lost eight on the bounce, but Gamba Osaka fall to second from bottom after another dreadful start proved costly in their 3-2 reverse at FC Tokyo.

Shimizu S-Pulse are now without a league win in seven, and will have to wait another week for their 1,000th J. League goal following a scoreless stalemate at home to Kawasaki Frontale.

Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers beat Omiya Ardija 1-0, while Yokohama F Marinos drew 1-1 with Cerezo Osaka.


TALKING POINTS
- The full Japan men’s squad for the Olympic Games is as follows:

Goalkeepers
Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo), Shunsuke Ando (Kawasaki Frontale)

Defenders
Yuhei Tokunaga (FC Tokyo), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96), Maya Yoshida (VVV Venlo), Kazuya Yamamura (Kashima Antlers), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart), Daisuke Suzuki (Albirex Niigata)

Midfielders
Takahiro Ogihara, Hotaru Yamaguchi (both Cerezo Osaka), Taisuke Muramatsu (Shimizu S-Pulse), Keigo Higashi (Omiya Ardija), Takashi Usami (TSG Hoffenheim), Hiroshi Kiyotake (1.FC Nürnberg)

Forwards
Yuki Otsu (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Kenyu Sugimoto (Tokyo Verdy), Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F Marinos)


J1 results (matchday 17)
Consadole Sapporo 0-1 Albirex Niigata
Urawa Reds 4-3 Sagan Tosu
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 1-0 Omiya Ardija
FC Tokyo 3-2 Gamba Osaka
Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Nagoya Grampus
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe 0-1 Vegalta Sendai
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 Jubilo Iwata


J2 results (matchday 23)
Mito HollyHock 1-1 Shonan Bellmare
Machida Zelvia 0-1 Ventforet Kofu
Matsumoto Yamaga 3-2 Tokyo Verdy
Gainare Tottori 0-2 Tochigi SC
Fagiano Okayama 0-1 Yokohama FC
Avispa Fukuoka 1-3 Tokushima Vortis
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-0 Ehime FC
JEF United Chiba 3-2 Kyoto Sanga
FC Gifu 0-2 Roasso Kumamoto
Thespa Kusatsu 0-2 Oita Trinita
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Montedio Yamagata

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