Sunday 23 September 2012

Episode 200: Late drama keeps Hiroshima on top while Gamba annihilate Urawa

Late goals were the order of the day at the top of J1 on Saturday as Sanfrecce Hiroshima just about managed to hold onto their two-point lead over Vegalta Sendai.

In a 3.30pm kickoff at the Yurtec Stadium, Sendai conceded the opening goal for the fourth match in a row as Yuzo Tashiro of Vissel Kobe rose highest to head home from a Takuya Nozawa corner.

Tashiro went off injured later in the first half to be replaced by Ken Tokura, who thought he had doubled the visitors’ advantage only to be denied by an offside flag.

Vegalta then rallied to equalise three minutes before the interval, Ryang Yong-Gi sending in a cross from the left for Shingo Akamine to head in from eight yards.

The score remained level until the end of an intense second period, when Sendai won a corner in the final minute of the ninety. Ryang’s ball in was headed down by Toshihiro Matsushita, and centre-back Jiro Kamata improvised in front of goal to score with an overhead kick and give the title challengers a crucial 2-1 victory.

Provisionally overhauled at the summit, the pressure was now on Sanfrecce ahead of a tough 7pm kickoff away to 2010 champions Nagoya Grampus, who were still looking to keep alive their own hopes of glory.

Hajime Moriyasu’s side took a 1-0 lead into half time when Kohei Shimizu was given acres of space to run onto a flick from Yojiro Takahagi, turned outside Grampus defender Daniel with ease, and fired the ball inside Seigo Narazaki’s near post.

But the hosts were level five minutes after the interval following a move started and finished by Marcus Tulio Tanaka. Breaking deep into Hiroshima territory, the former Japan all-rounder played the ball out to Taishi Taguchi, and continued his run to head the subsequent cross from right-back Hayuma Tanaka just inside the post.

The match appeared to be heading for stalemate, which would have left Hiroshima ahead of Sendai on goals scored alone. However, in the final minute of added time, substitute Naoki Ishihara lofted the ball over the Nagoya defence for Ryota Moriwaki to send a perfect looping header over the flailing Narazaki and in off the post for a dramatic winner.

Grampus fall to sixth place in the table, nine points off the Sanfrecce pace with just eight left to play.


Third-from-bottom Gamba Osaka sent shockwaves through both ends of the table with a total nullification and annihilation of third-placed Urawa Reds, incredibly winning 5-0 at the Saitama Stadium.

Hiroyuki Abe gave the relegation battlers the lead when his low shot went in under the late dive of a possibly unsighted Nobuhiro Kato, before Leandro guided Hiroki Fujiharu’s cross inside the far post with a deft header to double their advantage on 36 minutes.

Remaining on top throughout, to the delight of the 2,000 travelling supporters, Gamba effectively sealed the win on the hour mark when Fujiharu cut the ball back for Leandro to nonchalantly convert a left-footed, back-heeled volley as if it was the easiest thing in the world. The Brazilian marksman now has an astonishing nine goals in seven appearances since returning to the club this summer.

His compatriot Paulinho subsequently came off the bench to round off the party with two further strikes in the final five minutes.

The result was not enough to take the Osaka club out of the relegation zone, however, as Omiya Ardija had already begun the afternoon with another 5-0 away victory against hapless Consadole Sapporo.

After a goalless first period, the game turned decisively when Sapporo midfielder Junpei Takaki received a straight red for a foul on half-time substitute Zlatan Ljubijankič.

Milivoje Novaković converted the resultant penalty and went on to score a hat-trick in a comprehensive win that also saw goals for Carlinhos and Yu Hasegawa.

Omiya remain two points clear of Gamba, with Albirex Niigata now two further back in 17th position after their goalless draw at fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata. The game ended in controversy when Kisho Yano’s cutback hit Michael and went into the open net to apparently seal victory for Albirex, only for the goal to be ruled out by the linesman’s flag.

Iwata are now eight points off the top, with Sagan Tosu one point behind them thanks to a 3-1 victory over Kashiwa Reysol, whose hopes of defending their crown look to be over as they now trail Hiroshima by 11 points.

Elsewhere, Cerezo Osaka stayed four points clear of danger after a 3-2 home win over Shimizu S-Pulse. Yokohama F Marinos won 2-1 in Kashima despite the dismissal of former Antlers forward Marquinhos, while Kawasaki Frontale beat FC Tokyo by the same margin.

J1 results (matchday 26)
Consadole Sapporo 0-5 Omiya Ardija
Kashima Antlers 1-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Vissel Kobe
Urawa Reds 0-5 Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 0-0 Albirex Niigata
Cerezo Osaka 3-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
FC Tokyo 1-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Sagan Tosu 3-1 Kashiwa Reysol

J2 results (matchday 35)
Matsumoto Yamaga 7-1 Gainare Tottori
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-3 Ventforet Kofu
Oita Trinita 0-1 Tochigi SC
Yokohama FC 1-0 Tokushima Vortis
Roasso Kumamoto 3-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Thespa Kusatsu 3-1 Montedio Yamagata
JEF United Chiba 2-2 Tokyo Verdy
Machida Zelvia L-L Kataller Toyama
FC Gifu L-L Shonan Bellmare
Kyoto Sanga L-L Mito HollyHock
Ehime FC L-L Fagiano Okayama

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 17 September 2012

Hiroshima win top two battle as title race closes up

The J. League title race took another dramatic twist on Saturday evening as Sanfrecce Hiroshima emerged victorious from their battle of the top two with Vegalta Sendai to leapfrog their opponents back into pole position.

After a goalless first half at a drizzly Big Arch stadium in Hiroshima, the home side took the lead in rather fortuitous fashion just three minutes into the second. Kazuyuki Morisaki was given acres of space in midfield and decided to try his luck with a low shot from almost 40 yards. The ball hit the inside of Sendai defender Taikai Uemoto’s right leg, and deflected past goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.

The visitors fought hard for an equaliser, hitting the bar through a trademark Ryang Yong-Gi free kick on 65 minutes, and finally forced their way level through a typical Vegalta move soon afterwards. Makoto Kakuda pierced the Sanfrecce defence with a low through ball for Yoshiaki Ota, whose cross was converted by Shingo Akamine with a diving header.

However, it was Hiroshima who took the spoils when Hayashi could only palm a Hironori Ishikawa cross into the path of Yojiro Takahagi, who planted the ball into the roof of the net to send the majority of the 23,352 spectators home happy.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men now have a two point lead at the summit, with Sendai only ahead of Urawa Reds on goal difference after the latter came from behind to win 2-1 at Yokohama F Marinos. Marquinhos gave the hosts the lead after just five minutes but Urawa hit back with strikes from Japan internationals Yosuke Kashiwagi and Tomoaki Makino.

Jubilo Iwata and Nagoya Grampus both remained in the title picture with away victories that take them to within six points of the top; Iwata edging ten-man Vissel Kobe 2-1, and Nagoya beating Cerezo Osaka 2-0 in a game that was delayed for more than an hour due to a thunderstorm.

Reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol are two points further back in sixth after a 3-1 home victory over Consadole Sapporo.


At the other end of the table, Gamba Osaka slipped back into the bottom three after surrendering two points at home to relegation battle rivals Albirex Niigata.

A superb first-half strike from Leandro, his seventh goal in six appearances since returning to the club, looked to have set Gamba on their way to a crucial victory, but a series of defensive substitutions from manager Masanobu Matsunami throughout a woeful second half performance set up a nervy climax.

Ultimately, Keisuke Iwashita slid in foolishly on Michael to give Niigata a penalty in the last of the 90, and Bruno Lopes made no mistake to keep them on level points with their opponents.

Omiya Ardija were the beneficiaries, pulling two points clear of the relegation zone thanks to Kosuke Kikuchi’s header in a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu.

Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale came from two behind to draw 2-2 at home to Kashima Antlers, while Shimizu S-Pulse played out a 1-1 draw with FC Tokyo.

- Hiroshi Kiyotake’s brilliant start to life in Germany continued with two assists and a superb winning goal in Nürnberg’s 3-2 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach.
- Takashi Inui, a former teammate of Kiyotake at Cerezo Osaka, scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 3-2 win for Eintracht Frankfurt over Hamburg.
- Maya Yoshida earned praise from Southampton manager Nigel Adkins after making his Premier League debut as a first-half substitute on Saturday, but was unable to help the Saints avoid a 6-1 thrashing away to Arsenal.

J1 results (matchday 25)
Cerezo Osaka 0-2 Nagoya Grampus
Omiya Ardija 1-0 Sagan Tosu
Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Consadole Sapporo
Kawasaki Frontale 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 1-2 Urawa Reds
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Jubilo Iwata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 Vegalta Sendai

J2 results (matchday 33)
Mito HollyHock 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Tochigi SC 1-1 Tokushima Vortis
Tokyo Verdy 1-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Shonan Bellmare 2-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Fagiano Okayama
Matsumoto Yamaga 3-0 Machida Zelvia
Kataller Toyama 2-0 JEF United Chiba
Ehime FC 0-1 Yokohama FC
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-1 FC Gifu
Oita Trinita 2-0 Kyoto Sanga
Gainare Tottori 2-1 Montedio Yamagata

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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Tuesday 11 September 2012

World Cup ticket within reach as Japan edge past Iraq

The Japan national team moved into a commanding position at the top of Group B in the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup following a 1-0 victory over Iraq at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Ryoichi Maeda netted the only goal on 25 minutes to take the Samurai Blue six points clear of Jordan, who enjoyed a shock 2-1 win over Australia in Amman. Both the Socceroos and Iraq are now eight points off the pace, albeit with one game in hand.

Alberto Zaccheroni was forced into a last-minute reshuffle after Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa withdrew from the side having hurt his back in training. Hiroshi Kiyotake started on the left of midfield with Shinji Okazaki on the right.

Suspensions for defenders Atsuto Uchida and Yuzo Kurihara saw Yuichi Komano come in at right-back and Masahiko Inoha partner Maya Yoshida in the centre.

Iraq coach Zico claimed to know ‘everything’ about Japan before the game, having played for Kashima Antlers in the first two J. League seasons and managed the national team between 2002 and 2006. His selection was somewhat eccentric, however, with fully ten changes to the starting line-up and full international debuts handed to youngsters Ali Bahjat and Waleed Saleem.

If anything, this at least had the effect of confusing the Japanese defenders when it came to who they should mark at set pieces. Hammadi Ahmad had a great chance to open the scoring for the visitors when he was found completely unmarked at the far post from an Iraq corner, but his shot flew wide via a slight deflection off Yuto Nagatomo.

But Japan slowly found their rhythm midway through the first half, with Okazaki and Maeda resuming the fine understanding they demonstrated at last year’s Asian Cup to create the crucial opener. Okazaki volleyed the ball across the six yard line for the Jubilo Iwata forward to react quickest and head past Noor Sabri.

The home side remained in control thereafter, but struggled to create many chances while occasionally offering Iraq hope on the counter. Ahmed Yasin forced a decent save out of Eiji Kawashima a few minutes before half time with an excellent shot that curled around Komano.

Japan were more careful on the ball in the second period and appeared content to hold onto both possession and points. They did create the best two opportunities, however, both falling to the head of Honda.

The CSKA Moscow man missed the target from Nagatomo’s cross, before connecting more cleanly with a pinpoint ball from the deeper-lying Kiyotake only to watch Sabri push it onto the post.


Speaking to Asahi TV after the game, Zaccheroni said, “I am very happy to get the victory and the three points. It was a hard game between two teams that both expect to qualify for the World Cup, but we did well to win 1-0.

“I wasn’t worried about the opponents because I felt we would win if we played our game, but they put out 11 players in good condition and made things difficult at times. We want to get our ticket to the World Cup as quickly as possible, so our thoughts now immediately turn to the next game.”

Goalscorer Maeda added, “‘Oka’ sent in a great cross just like we had practised in training for me to score. We had fantastic supporters around us tonight, and I was happy to get the winning goal for them.”


Over the weekend, there were upsets aplenty as the J. League sides entered the Emperor’s Cup at the second round proper, with six suffering immediate elimination at the hands of non-league opposition.

The biggest casualties were Sanfrecce Hiroshima, currently second in J1, who slipped to a 2-1 defeat against FC Imabari of the fourth-tier Shikoku League.

Hisato Sato looked to have prevented embarrassment for Hiroshima when his 75th-minute equaliser cancelled out an early opener from Ryusei Morikawa, but Shuya Takahashi lofted a perfect ball over the defence for Daiki Takada to volley Imabari into the last 32.

Holders FC Tokyo went out at the first hurdle at home to Yokogawa Musashino of the third-level Japan Football League thanks to a last-minute goal from Keisuke Iwata, while high-flying Sagan Tosu suffered an identical fate in their home tie with J. League promotion hopefuls Kamatamare Sanuki.

Consadole Sapporo lost on penalties to Nagano Parceiro, currently top of the JFL but ineligible for promotion until their new stadium is completed, while Vissel Kobe lost 2-1 to Sagawa Shiga.

J2 leaders Ventforet Kofu went down on spot kicks to Fukushima United of the fourth-tier Tohoku League Division 1.

It was not all bad news for the big clubs, however, as Jubilo Iwata ran out 7-0 winners over FC Suzuka Rampole, while Kashima Antlers thrashed the University of Tsukuba 7-1.

In the most remarkable matchup of the round, defending J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol emerged as 3-0 victors against their own Under-18 side.

A full list of results can be found below.

World Cup qualifying results – AFC fourth round
Group A
Uzbekistan L-L South Korea
Lebanon L-L Iran

Group B
Japan 1-0 Iraq
Oman L-L Australia

Emperor’s Cup second round results
Kashiwa Reysol 3-0 Kashiwa Reysol U18
Shonan Bellmare 1-0 Ehime FC
Consadole Sapporo 1-1 Nagano Parceiro (after extra time; Nagano won 5-3 on penalties)
FC Tokyo 0-1 Yokogawa Musashino
Jubilo Iwata 7-0 FC Suzuka Rampole
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-3 Kyoto Sanga
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Sagawa Shiga
JEF United Chiba 1-0 V-Varen Nagasaki
Vegalta Sendai 1-0 Sony Sendai
Roasso Kumamoto 4-3 FC Gifu (after extra time)
Omiya Ardija 2-0 Blaublitz Akita
Avispa Fukuoka 4-2 Fukuoka University
Yokohama F Marinos 4-2 Y.S.C.C.
Tochigi SC 0-1 Yokohama FC (after extra time)
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Nara Club
Montedio Yamagata 3-0 Tonan Maebashi
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Kataller Toyama
Nagoya Grampus 2-0 FC Kariya
Sagan Tosu 0-1 Kamatamare Sanuki
Urawa Reds 2-1 Volca Kagoshima
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 FC Imabari
Machida Zelvia 1-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu (after extra time; Machida won 5-4 on penalties)
Shimizu S-Pulse 5-0 Arterivo Wakayama
Tokyo Verdy 3-0 Hoyo Oita
Gamba Osaka 3-0 Kansai University
Oita Trinita 2-2 Mito HollyHock (after extra time; Mito won 5-3 on penalties)
Albirex Niigata 2-1 Saurcos Fukui (after extra time)
Ventforet Kofu 0-0 Fukushima United (after extra time; Fukushima won 4-3 on penalties)
Kashima Antlers 7-1 University of Tsukuba
Gainare Tottori 2-1 Thespa Kusatsu
Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 Tokuyama University
Tokushima Vortis 5-1 Fagiano Okayama Next

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 03 September 2012

Ryang magic sends Sendai back on top

Vegalta Sendai came from behind to beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 and return to the head of the J1 table after Sanfrecce Hiroshima were held to a 1-1 draw at Jubilo Iwata.

At the Yamaha Stadium, things appeared to be going according to plan for the leaders at the start of play when Hisato Sato got his head to a Koji Morisaki corner on 20 minutes to register his 18th league goal of an astonishingly prolific season thus far.

But Jubilo were given the opportunity to equalise a quarter of an hour later when Sanfrecce defender Hiroki Mizumoto fouled his international teammate Yuichi Komano. The Japan left-back dusted himself off to take the resulting free kick himself, curling the ball over the outside edge of the wall and just inside Shusaku Nishikawa’s near post.

At this point on Saturday evening, it still looked as if Hiroshima would be staying on top as Sendai trailed at half time; Kyohei Noborizato heading home a cross from Kengo Nakamura.

However, two goals in quick succession early in the second period secured consecutive victories for Makoto Teguramori’s men on the back of the five-game winless run that had threatened to derail their title challenge.

Naoya Tamura headed his first ever J1 goal before Ryang Yong-Gi bent in a beautiful free kick from the edge of the penalty area.

Vegalta now lead Sanfrecce by a single point, with Urawa Reds two further back in third after missing a glorious opportunity to close in further at the Saitama Derby with Omiya Ardija.

The points looked in the bag when Genki Haraguchi put Urawa in front early on and Omiya forward Milivoje Novaković was dismissed for a second yellow card inside just 18 minutes.

But Keigo Higashi levelled the scores with a low, curling effort from well outside the box on the stroke of half time, and Reds were unable to find a winner despite outshooting their neighbours by 17 attempts to two.

Jubilo Iwata are in fourth position, seven points off the top.


At the bottom, Levir Culpi’s rescue mission at Cerezo Osaka got off to the perfect start as the first game of his third spell in charge ended in a 1-0 victory away to relegation battle rivals Albirex Niigata.

A long ball from goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon was headed on by Japan Olympic forward Kenyu Sugimoto for Yoichiro Kakitani to dispatch his seventh goal of the campaign with ten minutes remaining.

The win takes Cerezo five points clear of danger, with city rivals Gamba Osaka now only ahead of the dotted line, Niigata, and Omiya on goal difference after going down 4-1 at the ever-impressive Sagan Tosu.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus edged Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 in a battle of last season’s top two to move up to sixth, level on points with Iwata and Tosu.

Shimizu S-Pulse won 2-0 away to Consadole Sapporo, FC Tokyo beat Yokohama F Marinos 3-1, while a terrific 30-yard strike from Yuya Osako gave Kashima Antlers a 1-0 victory over Vissel Kobe.

- Two Japanese Olympic stars completed late moves ahead of the closure of the European transfer window. Yuki Otsu switched Borussia Mönchengladbach for VVV Venlo, while Maya Yoshida left the Dutch club to join Tadanari Lee at Premier League newcomers Southampton.
- Hiroshi Kiyotake registered his first official Bundesliga assist, with Tomáš Pekhart heading home the former Cerezo man’s corner during a 1-1 draw for Nürnberg at home to Borussia Dortmund.
- VfB Stuttgart full-back Gotoku Sakai is the one uncapped name in Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan squad for the upcoming friendly with the United Arab Emirates and World Cup qualifying match against Iraq.

J1 results (matchday 24)
Consadole Sapporo 0-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Urawa Reds 1-1 Omiya Ardija
FC Tokyo 3-1 Yokohama F Marinos
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 1-0 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 0-1 Cerezo Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Nagoya Grampus 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Gamba Osaka 4-1 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 32)
Mito HollyHock 2-0 Gainare Tottori
Machida Zelvia 2-2 Fagiano Okayama
Yokohama FC 1-3 Tochigi SC
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-2 Thespa Kusatsu
Kataller Toyama 1-0 Ehime FC
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Oita Trinita 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
Tokushima Vortis 2-2 Montedio Yamagata
JEF United Chiba 2-1 Avispa Fukuoka
FC Gifu 1-0 Tokyo Verdy
Kyoto Sanga 1-2 Shonan Bellmare

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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