Monday 06 December 2010

Kansai joy on final day as Kobe survive and Osaka clubs seal ACL qualification



There were celebrations all over the Kansai region on Saturday evening as a trio of big victories secured J1 survival for Vissel Kobe and places in next year’s AFC Champions League (ACL) for both Gamba and Cerezo Osaka.

Still in the bottom three going into the final day, Vissel knew they had to go for broke in a tough-looking trip to Urawa Reds, and survived a number of early scares to take a crucial lead on 31 minutes through veteran forward Takayuki Yoshida.

Yoshida then doubled the lead from the spot shortly after half time, and when Park Kang-Jo latched onto a Popo through pass to stun a packed Saitama Stadium with a third goal on the hour mark, attentions turned to Nishikyogoku, where Kobe still required a favour from Kansai rivals Kyoto Sanga against FC Tokyo.

The capital club held a one-point advantage that would be enough to secure their safety if they could win at long since relegated Kyoto, but fell behind to a Dutra header after 34 minutes. A desperate attacking effort throughout the second half was continually thwarted by an inspired Sanga defence, and though the hosts were reduced to ten men with a straight red card for Yasumasa Nishino minutes from the end, it was they who found a late goal deep into injury time.

Dutra broke through the Tokyo defence only to be felled by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, leaving Diego to convert the resultant spot kick and complete a 2-0 victory - Kyoto’s first for three months and only their fourth of the entire season.

Back in Saitama, 18-year-old Keijiro Ogawa then crowned a perfect day for Vissel by slotting home to make the final score 4-0 and spark ecstatic celebrations on the touchlines as news of the FC Tokyo score filtered through.

Vegalta Sendai saw off their mathematical risk of relegation with a 1-1 draw at home to Kawasaki Frontale.

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The battle for the two remaining ACL places up for grabs was no less dramatic, with both Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka beginning the afternoon on 59 points but Cerezo Osaka just a point behind and boasting a superior goal difference.

On paper, Gamba had the hardest fixture of the three with a visit to Shimizu S-Pulse, but any pre-match nerves were settled early in the first half when Lucas volleyed home on his 200th - and last - J. League appearance following a poor punch from goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe. Further goals from Takuya Takei and Hayato Sasaki secured a 3-0 win that guaranteed Asian qualification regardless of other results.

City neighbours Cerezo raced into a 2-0 first half lead at home to Jubilo Iwata, and were buoyed further by the news that Shogo Nishikawa had given Montedio Yamagata a shock advantage over Kashima. The second period in Osaka began with four goals shared evenly in a crazy ten-minute period that also took Cerezo striker Adriano’s tally for the day to four, but a Mitsuo Ogasawara equaliser from the penalty spot in Yamagata meant that everything would depend on whether Kashima could find a winner.

Despite creating a number of chances, the recently deposed champions ultimately ran out of time, allowing Cerezo to climb into third position in their first year back in the top flight. The pink half of Osaka toasted their impending success with further late goals from Amaral and Ryuji Bando, making the final score 6-2.

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Elsewhere, Omiya Ardija won 2-0 at Yokohama F Marinos, Albirex Niigata beat bottom side Shonan Bellmare 3-1, and champions Nagoya Grampus ousted Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 to seal a final winning margin of ten points.

Joshua Kennedy of Grampus and Ryoichi Maeda of Jubilo shared the J1 golden boot with 17 goals apiece.


J1 results (matchday 34)
Vegalta Sendai 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Montedio Yamagata 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Urawa Reds 0-4 Vissel Kobe
Yokohama F Marinos 0-2 Omiya Ardija
Albirex Niigata 3-1 Shonan Bellmare
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-3 Gamba Osaka
Nagoya Grampus 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kyoto Sanga 2-0 FC Tokyo
Cerezo Osaka 6-2 Jubilo Iwata


J1 final standings
1. Nagoya Grampus - 72
2. Gamba Osaka - 62
3. Cerezo Osaka - 61
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4. Kashima Antlers - 60
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5. Kawasaki Frontale - 54
6. Shimizu S-Pulse - 54
7. Sanfrecce Hiroshima - 51
8. Yokohama F Marinos - 51
9. Albirex Niigata - 49
10. Urawa Reds - 48
11. Jubilo Iwata - 44
12. Omiya Ardija - 42
13. Montedio Yamagata - 42
14. Vegalta Sendai - 39
15. Vissel Kobe - 38
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16. FC Tokyo - 36
17. Kyoto Sanga - 19
18. Shonan Bellmare - 16


J2 final standings (top 5)
1. Kashiwa Reysol - 80
2. Ventforet Kofu - 70
3. Avispa Fukuoka - 69
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4. JEF United Chiba - 61
5. Tokyo Verdy - 58

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