Monday 27 August 2012

Seven up for Gamba as Leandro fires Osakans out of the drop zone

Leandro scored a hat-trick to help Gamba Osaka climb out of the relegation zone for the first time all season with a 7-2 thumping of hapless Consadole Sapporo on Saturday evening.

The home side at Banpaku came out of the blocks quickly, taking the lead with their tenth goal attempt in just the 16th minute when top scorer Akihiro Sato got his head to a cross from Shu Kurata.

Takuma Hidaka then exposed Gamba’s continued defensive weakness with an immediate equaliser from Sapporo’s first opportunity, but Leandro took charge of proceedings with a spectacular volley to put the hosts back in front, before taking advantage of a poor defensive header to loft the ball over goalkeeper Tetsu Sugiyama for the third just before half time.

The Brazilian converted a Hiroki Fujiharu cross on 57 minutes to complete his hat-trick, taking him to six goals in just five appearances since returning to the club from Qatar, and after that point it was simply a matter of how many for Gamba. Yasuyuki Konno, a comedic own goal by Shunsuke Iwanuma, and Akihiro Ienaga took the tally to seven, with Shinya Uehara netting a consolation for Consadole.

However, the situation remains extremely tight at the bottom after fellow strugglers Cerezo Osaka inflicted a first league defeat in 16 games on sixth-placed Yokohama F Marinos, while a superb goal from Michael – nonchalantly lifted over the covering defender from a tight angle – gave Albirex Niigata a 1-0 win at Kashima Antlers.

Cerezo are now two points clear of safety in 14th position, with Gamba ahead of Niigata on goal difference with the second highest goals for and goals against tallies in the division.

Omiya Ardija drop to second from bottom after Vegalta Sendai finally returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory at the NACK5 Stadium. Yu Hasegawa gave the Squirrels the lead with a left-footed effort from 25 yards, but Wilson equalised for Sendai right on half time and strikes in the second period from Jiro Kamata and Toshihiro Matsushita secured a first three points in six matches for the title challengers.


With that victory for Vegalta, the gap at the top is back down to just a single point after leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home to FC Tokyo.

Tokyo manager Ranko Popović took the unusual step of matching Sanfrecce’s idiosyncratic 3-4-2-1 system, and it paid dividends when veteran striker Lucas collected the ball from Yohei Kajiyama and fired a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net on 49 minutes.

Hiroshima had twice as many goal attempts but were unable to find their way past Shuichi Gonda, with both Hisato Sato and Hironori Ishikawa guilty of misses late on.

Urawa Reds are now just two points off the summit in third after a 2-0 victory away to Shimizu S-Pulse. Tsukasa Umesaki played what was effectively a cross-field 1-2 with Tadaaki Hirakawa to volley Reds in front after 11 minutes, before being fouled by Alex Brosque to give Yuki Abe the chance to double the lead from the spot.

Jubilo Iwata leapfrogged Kashiwa Reysol into fourth with a 3-0 drubbing at the Hitachi Stadium, where Kashiwa defender Naoya Kondo was dismissed after just 18 minutes.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus put their recent miseries behind them with a 1-0 win at Kawasaki Frontale, while Vissel Kobe played out a scoreless draw with Sagan Tosu.

- Shinji Kagawa made an immediate impact on his Old Trafford debut as Manchester United beat Fulham 3-2, scoring a tap-in from close range after Tom Cleverley’s effort had been parried by Mark Schwarzer.
- A host of Japanese names were in action on the opening weekend of the German Bundesliga. Hiroshi Kiyotake was the stand-out performer, sending in the corner for Hanno Balitsch to head the only goal for Nürnberg in their 1-0 win at Hamburg.
- Victory over Yokohama F Marinos was not enough for Sérgio Soares to save his job at Cerezo Osaka, with the club announcing on Sunday that Levir Culpi had returned for a third spell in charge in order to stave off the threat of relegation.

J1 results (matchday 23)
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-2 Urawa Reds
Kashima Antlers 0-1 Albirex Niigata
Omiya Ardija 1-3 Vegalta Sendai
Kashiwa Reysol 0-3 Jubilo Iwata
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 7-2 Consadole Sapporo
Cerezo Osaka 2-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Vissel Kobe 0-0 Sagan Tosu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 31)
Tokyo Verdy 0-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Ventforet Kofu 2-1 Yokohama FC
Gainare Tottori 0-3 Tokushima Vortis
Ehime FC 0-0 FC Gifu
Shonan Bellmare 2-1 Tochigi SC
Montedio Yamagata 3-1 Machida Zelvia
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Kyoto Sanga
JEF United Chiba 3-0 Mito HollyHock
Fagiano Okayama 0-0 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 2-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 Kataller Toyama

Ben Mabley will be analysing the English Premier League for the JSports programme ‘Foot!’ this season, every Tuesday night at 10pm on JSports 3.

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Monday 20 August 2012

Sato stars as Sanfrecce storm clear

J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato was once again the hero as Sanfrecce Hiroshima opened up a four-point lead at the head of the division after winning 2-0 away to Albirex Niigata.

With the two sides immediately below them, Vegalta Sendai and Kashiwa Reysol, drawing a blank in their meeting at the Yurtec Stadium, Hajime Moriyasu’s side took advantage and forced their way in front midway through the opening period when Toshihiro Aoyama’s superb through ball bisected the Albirex back four for Sato to do what he does best – slotting home his 17th league goal of the campaign.

The 30-year-old then turned provider ten minutes into the second half when he ran around the outside of the home defence and cut the ball back to give Naoki Ishihara an easy finish.

New signing Neto Baiano made his first start for Kashiwa but fired wide with the best opportunity of a second-versus-third battle that failed to live up to expectations. Long-time leaders Sendai remain the closest challengers to Hiroshima, but are now without a win in seven competitive fixtures.

Urawa Reds moved up to third with a 2-1 victory over Kashima Antlers, while fifth-placed Yokohama F Marinos extended their unbeaten streak to a joint club record of 15 league matches but had to settle for a point after neighbours Kawasaki Frontale came back from two behind to draw 2-2 at the Nissan Stadium.

Jubilo Iwata put an end to their recent poor run with a thrilling 4-3 victory over struggling Cerezo Osaka.

First half equalisers from Olympic stars Hotaru Yamaguchi and Takahiro Ogihara cancelled out Jubilo goals from defenders Yoshiaki Fujita and Shunya Suganuma. Kempes’s header then looked set to earn a crucial three points for Cerezo until Ryoichi Maeda struck twice in the final eight minutes to round off a dramatic evening at the Yamaha Stadium.

The win takes Iwata up to sixth, ahead of Sagan Tosu and neighbours Shimizu S-Pulse on goal difference after a first professional goal for Daisuke Muramatsu gave Afshin Ghotbi’s men a 1-0 win in Kyushu.


Relegation-threatened Gamba Osaka ruined the 20th anniversary celebrations for Nagoya Grampus with one of the most astonishing J. League results in recent seasons – winning 5-0 away at the Toyota Stadium.

Leandro gave Gamba the lead on 38 minutes but the match turned decisively shortly afterwards when Takahiro Masukawa was dismissed – perhaps harshly – for a tug on Akihiro Sato in the penalty area.

Yasuhito Endo converted from the spot in typically languid style, before setting the visitors up for a rampant second half when his cross found the head of Yasuyuki Konno at the far post to make the score 3-0.

Sato backheeled the tenth goal of his debut top flight season shortly afterwards, before substitute Paulinho completed the scoring with a late tap-in.

The result brings Gamba to within two points of safety, and might have taken them out of the bottom three altogether had it not been for another impressive away victory for Omiya Ardija at FC Tokyo. Zdenko Verdenik’s side defended stoically before his Slovenian compatriat Milivoje Novaković netted the game’s only goal; his first since joining on loan from 1. FC Köln.

Elsewhere, Consadole Sapporo fought back from two behind at home to Vissel Kobe but late strikes from Takuya Nozawa and Ken Tokura eventually condemned them to a 4-2 defeat.

- Japan played out an unconvincing 1-1 friendly draw with Venezuela in Sapporo last Wednesday. Yasuhito Endo’s first half strike was cancelled out by Nicolas Fedor, with Shinji Kagawa missing an open goal days before his likely competitive debut for Manchester United away to Everton tonight.
- Ventforet Kofu’s lead over Kyoto Sanga at the top of J2 was cut to two points as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Kataller Toyama.

J1 results (matchday 22)
Consadole Sapporo 2-4 Vissel Kobe
FC Tokyo 0-1 Omiya Ardija
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Urawa Reds 2-1 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Albirex Niigata 0-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Jubilo Iwata 4-3 Cerezo Osaka
Nagoya Grampus 0-5 Gamba Osaka
Sagan Tosu 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse

J2 results (matchday 28)
Tochigi SC 0-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Machida Zelvia 1-0 Tokushima Vortis
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Gainare Tottori 2-1 JEF United Chiba
Giravanz Kitakyushu 4-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Tokyo Verdy
Mito HollyHock 2-1 Oita Trinita
FC Gifu 1-2 Fagiano Okayama
Kyoto Sanga 2-1 Yokohama FC
Ehime FC 1-2 Montedio Yamagata
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Ventforet Kofu

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Monday 13 August 2012

Historic Olympic silver for Nadeshiko but men miss out on medal

The Japanese men’s hopes of returning from London with a first Olympic football medal since 1968 were dashed by defeats to Mexico in the semi-finals and South Korea in the bronze medal match, but Nadeshiko Japan made up for the disappointment by taking silver at the end of a superb campaign across the United Kingdom.

In Norio Sasaki’s final hurrah as manager, Japan clinched their place in the final of the women’s competition with a 2-1 victory over France last Monday.

A long free kick from Aya Miyama slipped through the fingers of French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi for Yuki Ogimi to open the scoring, before Miyama repeated the trick with a perfect ball onto the head of Mizuho Sakaguchi to double the advantage.

France hit back through substitute Eugenie le Sommer, but missed a golden chance to equalise when Elise Bussaglia sent a late penalty wide of the post.

The gold medal match at Wembley pitted Nadeshiko against the United States in a repeat of their glorious World Cup final matchup last year. But they were up against it immediately when Alex Morgan sent the ball across the six-yard box for Carli Lloyd to head the defending champions into an eighth-minute lead.

Japan fought back strongly, with both Ogimi and Miyama hitting the crossbar either side of a genuine penalty claim when Tobin Heath looked to have handled in the area.

But their lack of a clinical edge was exposed early in the second half when Lloyd was allowed too much room to run at the defence and hit a superb shot across Miho Fukumoto into the far corner of the net.

Ogimi scrambled home her third goal of the Games to halve the deficit after two attempts by Homare Sawa had been blocked, and Japan were given the perfect opportunity for a dramatic equaliser when Mana Iwabuchi took advantage of a defensive slip-up to run clean through on goal.

However, her hesitant shot was too close to Hope Solo, who pulled off a fine save to ensure victory for the Americans.

Tears at the final whistle were replaced with smiles by the time the teams returned to the pitch to collect their medals, as the gravity of their achievement began to dawn on the newly-decorated Japanese players. A crowd of over 80,000 – the largest ever to watch women’s football in the UK – was charmed by one last performance as the Nadeshiko squad took the podium and bowed in sequence to resemble a synchronised swimming team; or perhaps even Genki Sudo’s World Order dance troupe.


The men’s semi-final had started in the most positive fashion for Japan as Yuki Otsu smashed a terrific opener from outside the box after just 12 minutes.

But they were pegged back by a header from Marco Fabián on the half-hour mark, before an uncharacteristic error by Takahiro Ogihara allowed Oribe Peralta to loft the ball over Shuichi Gonda midway through the second half.

Javier Cortés made it 3-1 in stoppage time to send Takashi Sekizuka’s men to Cardiff for a grudge match for bronze against fierce rivals South Korea on Friday.

Japan again began well, but fell behind on the counter attack when Park Chu-Young was somehow allowed to get a shot inside Gonda’s near post despite having four defenders for company.

Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol, who was perhaps fortunate only to see yellow for an overzealous challenge on Otsu at 0-0, then broke through to make it two and dash Japanese dreams after 57 minutes.


In the J. League, Consadole Sapporo caused another unexpected twist in the title race with a last gasp 2-1 victory over Vegalta Sendai on Saturday afternoon.

The shock result allowed Sanfrecce Hiroshima to return to the top following their tense win by the same scoreline away to Omiya Ardija five hours later.

The chasing pack is tightly condensed after Urawa Reds lost away to Vissel Kobe while Kashiwa Reysol could only draw at home to FC Tokyo. Yokohama F Marinos and surprise package Sagan Tosu are right back in the championship picture after respective wins over Albirex Niigata and Kawasaki Frontale.

Amidst torrential rain, Gamba Osaka fought back from two down at home to city rivals Cerezo Osaka but were unable to turn their domination into a vital three points as the derby finished 2-2.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2, and Kashima Antlers edged Jubilo Iwata 2-1.

Olympic Games results – Men’s

Mexico 3-1 Japan
South Korea 0-3 Brazil

Bronze medal match
South Korea 2-0 Japan

Gold medal match
Brazil 1-2 Mexico

Olympic Games results – Women’s

France 1-2 Japan
Canada 3-4 United States (after extra time)

Bronze medal match
Canada 1-0 France

Gold medal match
United States 2-1 Japan

J1 results (matchday 21)
Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Vegalta Sendai
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Nagoya Grampus
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 FC Tokyo
Kawasaki Frontale 1-2 Sagan Tosu
Yokohama F Marinos 3-2 Albirex Niigata
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe 1-0 Urawa Reds

J2 results (matchday 28)
Tokyo Verdy 0-1 Kyoto Sanga
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Kataller Toyama 1-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Avispa Fukuoka 1-3 Shonan Bellmare
Oita Trinita 0-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Montedio Yamagata 0-1 Yokohama FC
Thespa Kusatsu 1-1 FC Gifu
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Machida Zelvia
Gainare Tottori 0-2 Fagiano Okayama
Ehime FC 1-2 Tokushima Vortis
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 Tochigi SC

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final second leg results
Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 Gamba Osaka (Kashiwa win 5-2 on aggregate)
FC Tokyo 2-0 Vegalta Sendai (FC Tokyo win 4-2 on aggregate)
Nagoya Grampus 3-4 Shimizu S-Pulse (4-4 on aggregate; Shimizu go through on away goals)
Cerezo Osaka 0-3 Kashima Antlers (Kashima win 5-1 on aggregate)
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Monday 06 August 2012

Japan inch closer to double medal glory

Japan’s male and female football teams each stand on the brink of Olympic medals after superb victories in the quarter-finals secured qualification for the last four at London 2012.

Nadeshiko Japan will line up against France at Wembley later this evening after beating Brazil 2-0 in Cardiff on Friday, while the men take on Mexico at the same venue tomorrow having thrashed Egypt 3-0 at Old Trafford 24 hours later.

With their places in the knockout stages assured with a game to spare, both sides had completed their group campaigns with rather uneventful scoreless draws, but the Japanese women were quick to restore excitement to the proceedings against Group E runners-up Brazil at the Millennium Stadium.

The captain Marta blazed over with a glorious chance for the South Americans on the quarter-hour mark, and Norio Sasaki’s charges took advantage to turn the screw for a spell of sustained pressure of their own. Yuki Ogimi opened the scoring after 26 minutes with a composed finish having been sent clean through by a smartly executed restart.

Brazil fought back after half time, missing two good opportunities to equalise when Marta’s free kick flew narrowly wide before strike partner Cristiane headed over.

But Nadeshiko were much more clinical, despite conceding the lion’s share of possession, and doubled their advantage on 73 minutes. Ogimi robbed Bruna to set up a counter attack and send a perfect ball over the defence for the on-running Shinobu Ohno, who cut inside and fired home off the underside of the bar.

The men were quick to demonstrate their attacking intentions in Manchester on Saturday, as Hiroshi Kiyotake headed the first chance wide inside just 30 seconds.

They did not have to wait long to find an opener, as Kiyotake dispossessed Eslam Ramadan just inside halfway and sent a low cross for Kensuke Nagai to knock the ball past both defender Saadeldin Saad and goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi, and finally into the vacant net.

Nagai was soon forced off with a bruised thigh sustained in the move – he should be fit for the semi-final – but his replacement, Manabu Saito, made a significant impact when he raced through on goal only to be tugged down just outside the area by Saad, who was promptly dismissed.

Japan took a while to make use of their man advantage and could have been forced to pay when Mohamed El Nery’s shot was well saved by Shuichi Gonda on 76 minutes.

But a well-deserved victory was sealed with two goals in five minutes thereafter. Kiyotake crossed in a low free kick for the skipper Maya Yoshida to dive in at the near post and head home Japan’s second, before a Takahiro Ogihara cross found Yuki Otsu free to head a late third.

Nadeshiko are looking for their first ever Olympic medal, having previously finished fourth in Beijing four years ago, while the men’s team took bronze in Mexico City way back in 1968.


In domestic news, Marcus Tulio Tanaka was the hero of the J. League weekend after netting four goals as a makeshift striker in Nagoya Grampus’s 5-1 drubbing of Vissel Kobe.

The result takes the 2010 champions back up to fifth; six points behind returning leaders Vegalta Sendai, who played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Yokohama F Marinos. Sanfrecce Hiroshima fall to second after conceding two late goals to suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat to Shimizu S-Pulse, who had been winless in nine and saw Lee Ki-Je dismissed earlier in the second half.

Returning hero Leandro netted twice as Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 3-1 to move within four points of safety and drag the Squirrels into the relegation zone with them. Cerezo Osaka are up to 14th ahead of next Saturday’s derby at Banpaku after trouncing bottom side Consadole Sapporo 4-0. Albirex Niigata continued their fine recent run under Masaaki Yanagishita with a 1-1 draw against champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Elsewhere, Urawa Reds and Jubilo Iwata missed the chance to close on the leaders after 2-2 home draws against FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale, respectively, while Kashima Antlers beat Sagan Tosu 2-0.

Olympic Games results – Men’s
Japan 0
-0 Honduras
Spain 0-0 Morocco

Japan 3
-0 Egypt
Mexico 4-2 Senegal (after extra time)
Brazil 3-2 Honduras
Great Britain 1-1 South Korea (after extra time; South Korea won 5-4 on penalties)

Olympic Games results – Women’s
Japan 0
-0 South Africa
Canada 2-2 Sweden

Sweden 1-2 France
United States 2-0 New Zealand
Brazil 0-2 Japan
Great Britain 0-2 Canada

J1 results (matchday 20)
Urawa Reds 2-2 FC Tokyo
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Jubilo Iwata 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus 5-1 Vissel Kobe
Gamba Osaka 3-1 Omiya Ardija
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Consadole Sapporo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers 2-0 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 27)
Mito HollyHock 2-2 Montedio Yamagata
Tokyo Verdy 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Yokohama FC 1-0 Shonan Bellmare
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-1 Ehime FC
FC Gifu 0-3 Avispa Fukuoka
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-1 Machida Zelvia
Tokushima Vortis 0-4 Oita Trinita
Thespa Kusatsu 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
JEF United Chiba 0-0 Tochigi SC
Kyoto Sanga 3-1 Gainare Tottori
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
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