Sunday 31 March 2013

Yokohama F Marinos edge FC Tokyo to maintain 100% record

Yokohama F Marinos stand clear atop the J1 table after a dramatic 3-2 home victory over FC Tokyo kept them on maximum points from four games for the first time since 2006.

The game started in less than ideal fashion for the hosts as their visitors from the capital quickly took the initiative with their aggressive style of play and opened the scoring on 27 minutes. Yuzo Kurihara could only get a weak defensive header onto Kosuke Ota’s cross to divert the ball into the path of Tadanari Lee, who took advantage to score for the first time since returning to Japan on loan from Southampton.

Marinos turned things around in the second period after Shunsuke Nakamura’s free kick took a massive deflection off the Tokyo wall to deceive Shuichi Gonda for the equaliser. Seven minutes later, Yoshihito Fujita got his head to Shingo Hyodo’s cross for his maiden goal following a winter move from JEF United Chiba.

Tokyo looked to have secured a point when former Yokohama striker Kazuma Watanabe finished off an excellent passing move with eight minutes remaining, but Fujita struck again via the post with the clock on 90 to maintain his new side’s perfect record.

Yasuhiro Higuchi’s men move two points clear at the top after Cerezo Osaka surrendered their 100% record with a 1-1 draw at home to Vegalta Sendai.

Yusuke Maruhashi’s own goal put the visitors in front after 32 minutes, but the team in pink demonstrated typical skill in pulling level early in the second half. Fabio Simplicio dribbled past three Sendai players in a congested midfield before playing a 1-2 with Takumi Minamino and then on to Yoiichiro Kakitani, who squeezed a low shot across the goalkeeper for Cerezo’s equaliser.

Urawa Reds rise to second on goal difference thanks to a valuable 2-0 victory away to bottom side Albirex Niigata, achieved despite being second best for most of the afternoon, while Saitama neighbours Omiya Ardija are up to fourth after continuing their fantastic start to the season with a 3-1 win at home to Kashima Antlers.

The visitors took the lead when Gaku Shibasaki’s strike was parried into the path of Davi for an easy tap-in, but Omiya were level before half time when Shin Kanazawa’s low shot found its way in off the post from well outside the penalty area.

Ardija picked up the pace after the restart and were soon ahead. Yu Hasegawa spotted the run of Shohei Takahashi and threaded the ball through to the defender, who knocked it wide of Kashima ’keeper Hitoshi Sogahata for Milivoje Novaković to hit his first of 2013.

Substitute Takamitsu Toyama later made sure of the points with a cracking effort from the edge of the box into the opposite top corner.


Sagan Tosu complete the list of five unbeaten teams after four matches, but they were left disappointed with a third draw of the campaign after blowing a 3-1 lead away to winless Jubilo Iwata.

Yohei Toyoda scored a hat-trick of headers to take his seasonal tally to six already, but Jubilo fought back after the second half introduction of Yuki Kobayashi to steal a 3-3 draw with goals from Takuya Matsuura and Hidetaka Kanazono.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima showed some of the qualities that made them champions last term by running out 4-0 victors at hapless Shimizu S-Pulse, who fall to second from bottom having conceded nine in two home matches.

Hisato Sato was the star with his first two goals of the season plus two assists – the first a glorious flick for Naoki Ishihara to run onto after his initial dummy. Sanfrecce may not have had it quite so easy, however, had it not been for Shimizu defender Naoya Okane seeing red for two yellow cards early in the second half.

Elsewhere, Shonan Bellmare fill the third and final relegation spot following a 2-0 loss at Nagoya Grampus, with fellow newly-promoted side Oita Trinita only ahead on goal difference after going down 3-1 at Kashiwa Reysol.

Kawasaki Frontale and Ventforet Kofu are also both winless on just two points after their 1-1 draw at Todoroki.

Vissel Kobe held onto top spot thanks to a 2-1 win at Matsumoto Yamaga; their fifth in six league games. Montedio Yamagata are second following a 5-1 thumping of Yokohama FC, unbeaten Gamba Osaka move up to third with only their second victory of the season – 3-1 away to Consadole Sapporo – while JEF United Chiba finally got their campaign into gear by thrashing Giravanz Kitakyushu 6-1.

J1 results (matchday 4)
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-4 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Vegalta Sendai
Jubilo Iwata 3-3 Sagan Tosu
Omiya Ardija 3-1 Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Oita Trinita
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Ventforet Kofu
Nagoya Grampus 2-0 Shonan Bellmare
Albirex Niigata 0-2 Urawa Reds
Yokohama F Marinos 3-2 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 6)
Montedio Yamagata 5-1 Yokohama FC
Tochigi SC 3-0 Thespakusatsu Gunma
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-2 Vissel Kobe
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Mito HollyHock
Roasso Kumamoto 1-1 Kataller Toyama
Ehime FC 0-1 Fagiano Okayama
Consadole Sapporo 1-3 Gamba Osaka
JEF United Chiba 6-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Tokyo Verdy 3-0 FC Gifu
Kyoto Sanga 1-2 Tokushima Vortis
V-Varen Nagasaki 3-1 Gainare Tottori

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Monday 18 March 2013

‘Defensive’ Sagan Tosu win by odd goal in nine

Sagan Tosu, whose strong defence formed the basis for a fifth-place finish in their debut J1 season last year, were left holding on to win a nine-goal thriller at home to Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday despite having led by four early in the second half.

Kei Ikeda netted with Tosu’s first shot on goal to leave the hosts 1-0 up at the break, but their advantage was quadrupled within nine minutes of the restart after an explosive opening to the second half.

Kim Min-Woo broke down the left flank and beat two Kawasaki players before dispatching the ball across goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe for the second, but the Korean’s superb solo effort was surpassed barely seconds later when Kota Mizunuma ran onto a poor headed clearance from Hiroki Ito and smashed the ball into the net from fully 30 yards.

With the Frontale defence in tatters, Yoshiki Takahashi then played the ball over the top for Yohei Toyoda to make the score 4-0.

A rifled shot from Yoshito Okubo that bounced in off the crossbar had the air of a mere consolation for the visitors, but Yu Kobayashi scored with a diving header to reduce the deficit to two with 20 minutes remaining.

Toyoda headed his second to make the score 5-2, only for Kobayashi to roll the ball across goal to leave an easy finish for Renato, who then turned provider as his cross was headed home by fellow Brazilian forward Patrick with three minutes left on the clock.

However, the men from Kyushu fought off the Kawasaki onslaught through stoppage time to emerge as relieved 5-4 victors.


It was a good weekend for teams in pink and blue, as Cerezo Osaka beat FC Tokyo 1-0 to record three straight victories from the start of the season for the first time since 1998.

With both teams entering the game on perfect records from their first two matches, it was the visitors to Nagai who began the strongest and thought they had opened the scoring through Lucas, only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled out for a Keigo Higashi handball.

The one that did count arrived at the same end but for the home side two minutes into the second half. Yusuke Maruhashi made an immediate impact after coming off the bench by breaking down the left and rolling the ball across for 18-year-old Takumi Minamino, who played in Hotaru Yamaguchi to score at the far post.

An offside flag then cut short FC Tokyo celebrations for a second time, again with Higashi the culprit, while substitute Tadanari Lee saw a shot cleared off the line by Kota Fujimoto.

Cerezo are second in now the table behind Yokohama F Marinos, who made it three out of three themselves with a 2-1 victory at home to Jubilo Iwata.

Having been put onto the back foot early in the game, the league leaders fought their way ahead after 45 minutes through Yuzo Kurihara only to see Hiroki Yamada level for Iwata with a first-time, left-footed shot from inside the D in first-half stoppage time.

But Shingo Hyodo was left free to net the winner on the hour after Yuzo Kobayashi’s cross had evaded veteran Jubilo goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. Jung Woo Young later saw red for the visitors.

Urawa Reds had sloppy defending to blame for their first dropped points of the season as they gifted two goals to Oita Trinita within the first five minutes, but were at least able to fight back for a 2-2 draw through Genki Haraguchi and Yuki Abe strikes later in the first half.

Elsewhere, Vegalta Sendai beat fellow AFC Champions League competitors Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 at home to finally record their first three points of the season. The visitors registered three times as many shots on goal but only had one expertly volleyed equaliser by Leandro Domingues to show for their efforts, and Sendai made them pay when Naoki Sugai flicked the ball over Ryosuke Yamanaka and back across for Wilson to nod in the winner.

A last-minute leveller by Kim Kun-Hoan gave Albirex Niigata their first point in a 1-1 draw at Omiya Ardija. Shonan Bellmare drew 1-1 with Shimizu S-Pulse, Nagoya Grampus won 1-0 at Ventforet Kofu, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima played out a 0-0 draw with Kashima Antlers in the one Sunday fixture.

Vissel Kobe kept up their 100% record with a 1-0 victory over fellow relegated side Consadole Sapporo. Their closest rivals are now Gainare Tottori with seven points from three games following their 3-1 win over Mito HollyHock, but Gamba Osaka slipped to fifth after a dismal 0-0 draw at home to Yokohama FC.

J1 results (matchday 3)
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Yokohama F Marinos 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Sagan Tosu 5-4 Kawasaki Frontale
Oita Trinita 2-2 Urawa Reds
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Cerezo Osaka 1-0 FC Tokyo
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Ventforet Kofu 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-0 Kashima Antlers

J2 results (matchday 3)
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-2 Roasso Kumamoto
Gainare Tottori 3-1 Mito HollyHock
Tokushima Vortis 1-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Avispa Fukuoka 1-2 Kyoto Sanga
Montedio Yamagata 2-0 V-Varen Nagasaki
Tochigi SC 0-0 JEF United Chiba
Tokyo Verdy 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Kataller Toyama 1-0 Ehime FC
Gamba Osaka 0-0 Yokohama FC
Vissel Kobe 1-0 Consadole Sapporo
FC Gifu 0-0 Thespakusatsu Gunma

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Monday 11 March 2013

Antlers edge thriller while five-star Marinos destroy S-Pulse

Kashima Antlers emerged as 3-2 winners against Vegalta Sendai on a poignant Saturday afternoon in which the two J. League clubs most affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami paid tribute to the victims.

Two days ahead of the anniversary of the disaster, the match at the Kashima Stadium was preceded by a ceremony and emotional minute’s silence.

Vegalta were missing key midfielders Shingo Tomita and Makoto Kakuda, and the absences showed as Antlers established a clear advantage throughout a first half that ended 1-0 in their favour. The goal came on 29 minutes when Davi reacted quickest to a blocked Takuya Nozawa shot to score with a diving header, moments after Juninho had launched the assault with a shot that cracked off the crossbar.

But the game turned one way then the other with three goals in as many crazy minutes at the start of the second half. The visitors found their way level almost straight from kick off through Yoshiaki Ota, only for Kashima to restore their lead instantly when Yuya Osako collected a cross from Daigo Nishi and expertly spun past Kodai Watanabe.

The day before his 29th birthday, Davi then netted his second from a low Nozawa cross following good Kashima build-up play on the right.

Sendai slowly found their way back into the game and scored on the counter midway through the half when substitute Heberty pierced the home defence with a through ball for Wilson. But Antlers held out to record a first win for Toninho Cerezo since his return to the club he successfully managed between 2000 and 2005.


Yokohama F Marinos sit atop the nascent table after sending Afshin Ghotbi and his young Shimizu S-Pulse side back to the drawing board with a stunning 5-0 away victory at Nihondaira.

Former Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura opened the scoring direct from a corner kick after eight minutes, before a lofted through ball from Seitaro Tomisawa sent Shingo Hyodo in to lob Akihiro Hayashi and double the advantage.

The second half was the Marquinhos show, however, as the Brazilian – who turns 37 later this month – rolled back the years with a brilliant hat-trick.

Manabu Saito once again made a name for himself when coming off the bench to provide the assists for Marquinhos’s first and third goals, but the pick of the bunch came when Nakamura sent a diagonal ball over the advanced S-Pulse defence for the striker to run clean through and net the team’s fourth.

There was also a Marinos connection at the Ajinomoto Stadium as Kazuma Watanabe and Aria Jasuru Hasegawa both scored in a 3-0 victory over Kashiwa Reysol for FC Tokyo, the club they left Yokohama to join last year.

The impressive win over the 2011 champions means that Ranko Popović’s men join Marinos on maximum points – alongside Cerezo Osaka, who won 2-1 at J2 champions Ventforet Kofu, and Urawa Reds, who beat Nagoya Grampus 1-0.

In a game of good quality yet often lacking a spark, Urawa deservedly made the breakthrough nine minutes into the second half when Shinzo Koroki spotted a perfect pass for the overlapping left wing-back Tomoya Ugajin, whose brilliant first time shot curled inside Seigo Narazaki’s far post.

Incredibly, this is the first time for 15 years that Reds have begun the season with two wins.

Elsewhere, defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima partially atoned for their defeat against Urawa last week with a hard-fought 2-1 victory away to ten-man Albirex Niigata, who had defender Seiya Fujita sent off for two yellow cards within the first quarter of the game.

Omiya Ardija contined their fine start with a 1-0 win at Jubilo Iwata – Kosuke Kikuchi the scorer. Kawasaki Frontale and Oita Trinita collected their first points of the campaign in a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium, while Shonan Bellmare’s meeting with Sagan Tosu ended in the same scoreline.

Vissel Kobe moved top of the J2 table with a thumping 4-0 win over FC Gifu, leaving only them and Avispa Fukuoka on maximum points after the latter beat Montedio Yamagata. V-Varen Nagasaki’s first ever home game in the J. League ended in a 3-1 defeat to promotion favourites Gamba Osaka.

J1 results (matchday 2)
Albirex Niigata 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashima Antlers 3-2 Vegalta Sendai
FC Tokyo 3-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Ventforet Kofu 1-2 Cerezo Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-5 Yokohama F Marinos
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Oita Trinita
Jubilo Iwata 0-1 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 1-0 Nagoya Grampus
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 2)
Mito HollyHock 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Thespakusatsu Gunma 0-0 Gainare Tottori
Fagiano Okayama 0-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Ehime FC 1-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
V-Varen Nagasaki 1-3 Gamba Osaka
Consadole Sapporo 0-1 Tochigi SC
Yokohama FC 2-2 Tokushima Vortis
Vissel Kobe 4-0 FC Gifu
Avispa Fukuoka 2-1 Montedio Yamagata
Roasso Kumamoto 0-3 JEF United Chiba
Kyoto Sanga 0-0 Tokyo Verdy

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Monday 04 March 2013

Urawa lay down early title marker with victory in Hiroshima

Urawa Reds showed why they are many observers’ favourites for this year’s J1 title with a 2-1 opening day victory at the home of the reigning champions, Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Twelve months after ex-Sanfrecce boss Mihailo Petrović had taken his trademark 3-4-2-1 system to Urawa only to lose first time out against his former employers, the Serb was able to enjoy the satisfaction of revenge as Reds looked the stronger side from the outset.

The first goal came on 37 minutes when Genki Haraguchi dribbled inside from the left flank and rolled the ball back with his studs for Yosuke Kashiwagi to fire inside the near post. The midfielder was joined by fellow former Hiroshima stars Tomoaki Makino and Ryota Moriwaki, making his debut in Urawa colours after a winter switch, to celebrate excitedly on their old stomping ground.

Haraguchi broke inside again soon after the restart, this time from the right, for Urawa’s second. His right-footed shot appeared to have been badly mishit, but Sanfrecce ’keeper Shusaku Nishikawa somehow allowed it to squirm between his fingers.

The champions were quickly back in contention as Koji Morisaki’s perfect 30-yard free kick sailed over the wall and in off the bar. But the fightback never really materialised and Petrović’s men were good value for their three points – the first time in six years that Urawa had managed a maximum haul on the opening day.

Last year’s runners-up, Vegalta Sendai, were made to work hard in snowy conditions for a point at home to the J2 champions, Ventforet Kofu.

An energetic start from the visitors put Sendai onto the back foot, but they took the lead four minutes into the second period when Kodai Watanabe rose highest to head home a corner from Ryang Yong-Gi.

However, Kofu fought level when debutant Akito Kawamoto headed a bouncing ball beyond two Vegalta defenders for new Brazilian signing Hugo to finish past Takuto Hayashi.


Yokohama F Marinos suffered a real scare at home to newly-promoted Shonan Bellmare but recovered to win 4-2 in the highest scoring fixture of the opening weekend.

No sooner had veteran Shunsuke Nakamura given Marinos the lead from a trademark free kick than Bellmare were level, when the mohawked Quirino hit a low 25-yard shot from left to right and into the bottom corner of the net.

The Brazilian then beat Yuji Nakazawa and coolly slotted home to put Shonan in front on the hour.

But the introduction of Manabu Saito turned the tide Yokohama’s way, as his low cross was met by Marquinhos at the far post for the equaliser, before the Japan Olympic international fired in himself with just seven minutes remaining.

Marquinhos added a late penalty to complete the scoring.

Elsewhere, an ill-advised attempt to roll out the ball by Oita Trinita goalkeeper Kenta Tanno spelt doom for the third promoted club as Aria Jasuru Hasegawa stole in for an easy FC Tokyo winner at Oita Bank Dome.

Omiya Ardija looked set for victory at home to Shimizu S-Pulse as a Calvin Jong-a-Pin own goal plus a Takuya Aoki strike had them 2-0 up after 65 minutes, but Afshin Ghotbi’s men fought back for a point thanks to 18-year-old Hideki Ishige and a crossed free kick-cum-shot from Kenta Uchida.

Nagoya Grampus were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Jubilo Iwata in a game that saw Marcus Tulio Tanaka limp off injured, while Sagan Tosu recovered from Yuya Osako’s opener to level through Yohei Toyoda as their meeting with Kashima Antlers finished with the same scoreline.

A looping volley in the 88th minute by Yoichiro Kakitani, the latest wearer of Cerezo Osaka’s legendary number eight jersey, was enough to seal victory in a battle of last season’s narrow survivors with Albirex Niigata, while 2011 champions Kashiwa Reysol recorded a 3-1 victory over Kawasaki Frontale in Sunday’s fixture.

Gamba Osaka needed two penalties to fight back for a dramatic 3-3 draw in their first ever second division match at home to Kyoto Sanga. Following a raft of away victories across the country, it is Ehime FC who sit atop the largely theoretical table after their 3-1 victory over Montedio Yamagata made them the only J2 team to win at home on opening day.

J1 results (matchday 1)
Vegalta Sendai 1-1 Ventforet Kofu
Yokohama F Marinos 4-2 Shonan Bellmare
Nagoya Grampus 1-1 Jubilo Iwata
Cerezo Osaka 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Urawa Reds
Sagan Tosu 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Omiya Ardija 2-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Oita Trinita 1-2 FC Tokyo
Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Kawasaki Frontale

J2 results (matchday 1)
Tochigi SC 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Consadole Sapporo
FC Gifu 0-2 Yokohama FC
Tokushima Vortis 0-1 Vissel Kobe
Tokyo Verdy 0-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-2 Kataller Toyama
Roasso Kumamoto 1-2 Gainare Tottori
Mito HollyHock 1-1 Thespakusatsu Gunma
Fagiano Okayama 1-1 V-Varen Nagasaki
Ehime FC 3-1 Montedio Yamagata
Gamba Osaka 3-3 Kyoto Sanga

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