Monday 29 October 2012

Zlatan – no, not that one – spurs Squirrels with sensational hat-trick

Zlatan Ljubijankič scored a superb hat-trick as Omiya Ardija moved three points clear of the J1 relegation zone with a sensational 4-1 victory away to reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol.

The Slovenian, whose only previous goal since his mid-season transfer from Gent was a penalty in defeat to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, took advantage of hesitation in the hosts’ defence to open the scoring for Omiya after 21 minutes.

He then took firm control of the match for both himself and his team with two more goals in the opening four minutes of the second half.

Ljubijankič ran onto a through ball from Cho Young-Cheol to round the Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno and roll in Ardija’s second, before knocking a bouncing ball past Hidekazu Otani and brilliantly firing home with the outside of his right foot.

His contribution did not end there, as there was still time to lay on an assist for Daigo Watanabe to net the fourth, before Neto Baiano spotted Takashi Kitano off his line to score an astonishing late consolation goal for Kashiwa from fully 45 yards.

Omiya are now unbeaten in their last seven league matches.

The result was bad news for Albirex Niigata, who succumbed to a Yohei Toyoda brace at home to Sagan Tosu, and for Gamba Osaka, who outperformed league leaders Hiroshima for much of their game but were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Deft footwork from Yasuhito Endo allowed Japan’s most-capped international to evade both Hiroki Mizumoto and Ryota Moriwaki to slot home a deserved opener for the 2005 champions on 56 minutes. However, they were made to pay for their attempts to defend their lead when Kazuyuki Morisaki levelled for Sanfrecce a quarter of an hour from time.

A decent result in isolation became all the more painful for the Osakans later on Saturday evening when local rivals Vissel Kobe came back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at home to Kawasaki Frontale.

Akira Nishino’s men displayed all the misfortune of a side in freefall when Junpei Kusukami’s cross-cum-shot appeared to give Kawasaki an unassailable advantage midway through the second period, but their determination thereafter reaped its rewards with goals from Yuzo Tashiro and a second of the night for Ken Tokura.

Gamba are now three points adrift of both Omiya and Kobe in the final relegation position, with Niigata two further back in 17th.


Vegalta Sendai were unable to take advantage of the two dropped points for Hiroshima as they also drew 1-1 in their match away to out-of-form Jubilo Iwata.

Makoto Teguramori’s side looked to have reclaimed their position at the top of the table when right-back Naoki Sugai broke forwards and cut back for Shingo Akamine to net his 12th goal in 16 matches against Iwata with 13 minutes remaining.

But Ryoichi Maeda fought off the attentions of two Sendai defenders to pull the ball across for substitute Kosuke Yamamoto to score the equaliser moments after coming onto the pitch.

A Marcio Richardes effort that rebounded off the crossbar was the closest that third-placed Urawa Reds came to breaking the deadlock in their scoreless draw with Cerezo Osaka, meaning that it remains as you were in the title race with just four matches remaining.

Hiroshima lead Sendai by three goals, while Urawa are still six points off the pace.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse moved up into fourth position after winning 2-1 at Kashima Antlers in a match that was marred by scuffles between opposing supporters.

FC Tokyo thrashed already-relegated Consadole Sapporo 5-0, while a trademark free kick by Shunsuke Nakamura rescued a 1-1 draw for Yokohama F Marinos away to Nagoya Grampus.

- Machida Zelvia earned a stay of execution at the foot of J2 as they beat second-from-bottom FC Gifu 1-0 to cut the gap to three points.
- An own goal and a defensive error saw Kyoto Sanga lose 2-0 at Giravanz Kitakyushu, allowing Shonan Bellmare to move within a single point in the battle for automatic promotion.

J1 results (matchday 30)
Urawa Reds 0-0 Cerezo Osaka
Kashiwa Reysol 1-4 Omiya Ardija
Jubilo Iwata 1-1 Vegalta Sendai
Nagoya Grampus 1-1 Yokohama F Marinos
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashima Antlers 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
FC Tokyo 5-0 Consadole Sapporo
Albirex Niigata 0-2 Sagan Tosu
Vissel Kobe 3-3 Kawasaki Frontale

J2 results (matchday 40)
Montedio Yamagata 0-2 JEF United Chiba
Mito HollyHock 0-0 Fagiano Okayama
Machida Zelvia 1-0 FC Gifu
Oita Trinita 1-0 Avispa Fukuoka
Tokushima Vortis 2-1 Tokyo Verdy
Kataller Toyama 0-2 Shonan Bellmare
Gainare Tottori 0-1 Roasso Kumamoto
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-0 Kyoto Sanga
Yokohama FC 3-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Tochigi SC 3-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Ehime FC 0-0 Ventforet Kofu

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 22 October 2012

Tightened up again at the top and bottom of J1

Saturday’s results in J1 have left both ends of the table suddenly rather congested, with four relegation candidates separated by as many points and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s five-point lead at the top evaporated to mere goal difference in the space of just two matches.

The champions-elect suffered a last-minute 2-1 defeat at the hands of title-holders Kashiwa Reysol, hours after closest challengers Vegalta Sendai had sealed a crucial 3-2 win over third-placed Urawa Reds.

In the 1pm kickoff in Sendai, Makoto Teguramori’s men got off to the perfect start when Wilson’s cross was met by Shingo Akamine at the far post to head Vegalta into a second-minute lead.

An unmarked Wilson collected Ryang Yong-Gi’s pass to fire the hosts 2-0 in front shortly after the hour mark, but Tomoaki Makino charged forwards from the back to reduce Urawa’s deficit to one just two minutes later.

Wilson expertly feinted past an overcommitted challenge by Tadaaki Hirakawa to restore the two-goal advantage, only for Marcio Richardes to pull one back again straightaway afterwards and set up a grandstand last eight minutes.

Richardes then had a great chance to equalise right at the death, but Takuto Hayashi bravely dived at his feet to save from point-blank range and secure the Sendai win.

Later on in Hiroshima, Sanfrecce struggled to break down the Kashiwa defence for much of the first period and conceded an opener on the counter to the overlapping full-back Kwon Han-Jin right on half time.

Koji Morisaki equalised seven minutes after the restart, but Hiroshima were unable to turn their relative domination thereafter into a vital second goal, and were made to pay in the fourth minute of added time.

Jorge Wagner’s corner went over a crowd of players for defender Tatsuya Masushima to slot home a dramatic winner, as the champions still refuse to surrender their crown without a fight.

They move up to fourth, nine points behind the top two but level with Shimizu S-Pulse, who drew 1-1 at home to relegation-battling Vissel Kobe, and Nagoya Grampus, who won 3-1 at Sagan Tosu.

Urawa are now six points off the summit in third, having lost three of their last four.


Straddling the drop line, Omiya Ardija and Albirex Niigata could only draw 1-1 in their meeting at the NACK5 Stadium, allowing Gamba Osaka to move within a point of safety after their 3-2 win away to Kawasaki Frontale.

Bruno Lopes rolled the ball across the 18-yard line and in front of the Omiya back four for an unmarked Atomu Tanaka to strike Niigata into a deserved 1-0 lead after 38 minutes, but Takuya Aoki pierced the visiting defence via a 1-2 with Keigo Higashi to equalise for the Squirrels just before the break.

In Kawasaki, occasional Japan international Akihiro Ienaga was the hero for Gamba with two goals in a game they largely controlled but needed to score three to compensate for the continued failings of their defence.

Superb passing moves put Gamba ahead twice, through Ienaga and left-back Hiroki Fujiharu, only for Junpei Kusukami and Kengo Nakamura to be left unmarked in otherwise crowded penalty areas to head equalisers for Frontale.

But when Yuki Saneto could only half-clear Leandro’s cross, Ienaga smashed home the loose ball to take Gamba a point ahead of Niigata in 16th.

Winless in seven, Kobe are now just three points ahead of Gamba in 14th position, with Kashima Antlers as many clear of them in 13th place after Shinzo Koroki missed a penalty in their goalless draw with relegated Consadole Sapporo.

Elsewhere, Cerezo Osaka drew 1-1 at home to FC Tokyo.

- A week after securing an immediate return to the top flight, Ventforet Kofu made sure of their J2 championship with a 3-2 victory away to Avispa Fukuoka.
- Kyoto Sanga moved into the second automatic promotion spot thanks to a 3-1 win over FC Gifu, after Shonan Bellmare were held 1-1 at home to JEF United Chiba.
- With three matches remaining for most second division clubs, everyone down to Fagiano Okayama in tenth are theoretically in with a chance of automatic promotion. Tochigi SC in 11th could still make the playoffs.
- Machida Zelvia are now six points adrift at the bottom of J2 and could well become the first team ever to be relegated from the J. League, with associate members V-Varen Nagasaki still five points clear at the top of the third-tier JFL.

J1 results (matchday 29)
Vegalta Sendai 3-2 Urawa Reds
Yokohama F Marinos 4-0 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Vissel Kobe
Sagan Tosu 1-3 Nagoya Grampus
Consadole Sapporo 0-0 Kashima Antlers
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 FC Tokyo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol

J2 results (matchday 39)
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Kyoto Sanga 3-1 FC Gifu
Avispa Fukuoka 2-3 Ventforet Kofu
Roasso Kumamoto 0-1 Yokohama FC
Tokyo Verdy 4-1 Tochigi SC
Machida Zelvia 2-4 Ehime FC
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 JEF United Chiba
Matsumoto Yamaga 2-1 Mito HollyHock
Tokushima Vortis 3-0 Kataller Toyama
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Fagiano Okayama
Gainare Tottori 1-0 Oita Trinita

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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Saturday 06 October 2012

J1 matchday 28 roundup

Ben Mabley presents a brief roundup of Saturday’s matches from J1.

J1 results (matchday 28)
Cerezo Osaka 3-2 Sagan Tosu
Yokohama F Marinos 0-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashima Antlers 5-1 FC Tokyo
Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Albirex Niigata 0-0 Vissel Kobe
Nagoya Grampus 0-0 Omiya Ardija
Jubilo Iwata 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Gamba Osaka
Urawa Reds 1-2 Consadole Sapporo

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Monday 01 October 2012

Sanfrecce move five points clear while record-breaking Sapporo prepare for J2

Sanfrecce Hiroshima took a massive step towards claiming their first ever J. League championship with a 4-1 victory over Sagan Tosu, as closest rivals Vegalta Sendai slipped to defeat away to Shimizu S-Pulse.

Faced with a challenging fixture on paper against the side with the meanest defensive record in the top flight, Sanfrecce opened the scoring on the half hour thanks to Kohei Shimizu’s solo run and finish, before being helped on their way further by a highly controversial penalty decision from referee Hajime Matsuo.

Tosu defender Keita Isozaki clearly played the ball away well before colliding with Hironori Ishikawa, after both players had run in from different angles. But Matsuo pointed to the spot, to the astonishment of the away side, and Hisato Sato took the invitation to calmly plant the ball into the roof of the net.

Sato turned provider in the second half, rounding goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi before cutting back for the grateful Koji Morisaki. Yohei Toyoda headed a late consolation, but Sato chased down a long ball from Mihael Mikić to loft a volley over Akahoshi in the 95th minute for his club record 20th league goal of the campaign.

The celebrations were doubly sweet in Hiroshima with the news that Shimizu had come from behind to beat second-placed Sendai 3-1 at Nihondaira.

Yoshiaki Ota crossed for right-back Naoki Sugai to head home from a striker’s position and give the visitors a 1-0 half-time lead, but the match turned dramatically when Vegalta defender Jiro Kamata was sent off on the hour for two yellow cards in the space of just four minutes.

S-Pulse quickly took advantage, Kim Hyun-Sung heading an equaliser from Calvin Jong-a-Pin’s cross to mark his first J. League goal since his loan move from FC Seoul. Debutant Yuji Senuma, a fourth-year student at Tsukuba University, then announced his arrival by putting the hosts in front with another header on 84 minutes.

Not to be outdone, Kim embarrassed Takuto Hayashi in added time when his 45-yard attempt slipped through the goalkeeper’s fingers and over the line for Shimizu’s third.

Sendai are now five points behind Hiroshima, and only ahead of third-placed Urawa Reds on goal difference after the latter put last week’s 5-0 demolition by Gamba Osaka behind them with a dramatic 2-1 win at champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Moments before the final whistle, substitute forward Popo raced onto Shinya Yajima’s flick-on from a terrific long throw by ’keeper Nobuhiro Kato, and somehow got the ball between the hesitating Ryoichi Kurisawa and Koji Inada for Urawa’s winner.

It looks to be a three-way battle for the title now, with fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata slipping 11 points off the Hiroshima pace with a 2-1 loss at FC Tokyo.


Consadole Sapporo have broken the J. League record for the fastest ever relegation, after a 1-0 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale removed any mathematical hope of survival with fully seven matches still to play.

An utterly miserable year for Nobuhiro Ishizaki’s side has seen them lose all but four of their 27 league games to date, and still needing six more points to even equal the J1 worst of 16 shared by Yokohama FC (2007) and Shonan Bellmare (2010).

Cerezo Osaka took a major step towards ensuring they won’t be joining Sapporo in J2 next season – coming from behind to seal their second dramatic 3-2 victory in a week, this time away to Vissel Kobe.

Goals in the first 17 minutes by Keijiro Ogawa and Takahiro Soma, both from Ken Tokura assists, looked to have put Kobe in command, and while Fabio Simplicio pulled one back for Cerezo, the game appeared up when Yusuke Maruhashi was dismissed for a reckless sliding challenge on Takuya Nozawa.

But the ten men of Cerezo fought on, levelling when Yoichiro Kakitani’s solo run and cross found Simplicio unmarked at the far post for his second. And when Kobe defender Kazumichi Takagi allowed a throw-in to bounce over his head, Takuma Edamura raced on to blast home the winner from the edge of the box with nine minutes remaining.

The result now leaves Vissel just four points clear of danger, although manager Akira Nishino was thankful that his old charges Gamba Osaka could only draw 2-2 with Kashima Antlers despite another brace from Leandro.

Albirex Niigata achieved the shock result of the weekend, thrashing Nagoya Grampus 5-0 with all of the goals coming in the second half. Brazilian forward Michael netted twice, but the best of the bunch was a wonderful curling shot into the far corner from just outside the penalty area by his compatriot Bruno Lopes.

Niigata join Gamba on 29 points, two behind 15th-placed Omiya Ardija who clung on to draw 0-0 with Yokohama F Marinos despite a red card for Zlatan Ljubijankič.

J1 results (matchday 27)
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Vegalta Sendai
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-1 Sagan Tosu
FC Tokyo 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Albirex Niigata 5-0 Nagoya Grampus
Vissel Kobe 2-3 Cerezo Osaka
Omiya Ardija 0-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Urawa Reds
Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Consadole Sapporo

J2 results (matchday 36)
Mito HollyHock 3-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Tochigi SC 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
Gainare Tottori 2-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Machida Zelvia 1-3 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Yokohama FC
Montedio Yamagata 1-1 Tokyo Verdy
Ehime FC 2-2 JEF United Chiba
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Shonan Bellmare P-P Roasso Kumamoto
Tokushima Vortis P-P Kyoto Sanga
Matsumoto Yamaga P-P FC Gifu

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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