Thursday 07 April 2011

Kashima back in action with ACL draw



Kashima Antlers of Ibaraki Prefecture drew 1-1 away to Korean side Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Wednesday evening – in what was their first competitive fixture since the earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of northeastern Japan nearly four weeks ago.

After a cagey, closely-fought opening half, the hosts took the lead midway through the second period when Ha Tae-Gyun flicked on a long throw from Yang Sang-Min for Yeom Ki-Hoon to head past Hitoshi Sogahata.

But when Oh Jang-Eun missed an immediate opportunity to double the Suwon advantage, Kashima quickly rallied to net a deserved equaliser just three minutes after falling behind. Takuya Nozawa’s in-swinging corner found an unmarked Koji Nakata via the head of Daiki Iwamasa, leaving the former Marseille midfielder the simple task of slotting home from three yards.

Antlers manager Oswaldo de Oliveira appeared satisfied with a point following exactly one month of inactivity. “Of course it has been a difficult situation,” said the Brazilian. “We haven’t been able to work on things like shooting or moving the ball around as we would like.

“However, we have been able to work on our mental and physical strength. Overall, the team’s sense of unity was good. There were lots of positives to take from tonight.”

Kashima now travel to Australia for a rescheduled meeting with 2010 A-League champions Sydney FC next Wednesday. With their own Kashima Stadium suffering structural damage in the earthquake, the club will complete their AFC Champions League group programme with three ‘home’ games at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

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Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus earned their first points in Group F with a 1-1 draw at home to Korean champions FC Seoul.

Former Fukuoka University striker Kensuke Nagai netted his first goal as a professional in impressive style after just 14 minutes, bursting away from two defenders midway inside the Seoul half and confidently lifting the ball over goalkeeper Kim Yong-Dae.

Grampus were pegged back just after the hour mark, however, when Choi Hyun-Tae hit a stunning effort from 30 yards that sailed into the top-left corner of the goal beyond the outstretched palm of Seigo Narazaki.

There were mixed fortunes for the two Osaka clubs on Tuesday, with Cerezo Osaka clinching a 1-0 victory at home to Group G leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors thanks to a 53rd-minute strike from Takashi Inui. City rivals Gamba, however, turned in a terrible second half performance to lose 2-1 at Jeju United despite initially leading through Sota Nakazawa.


TALKING POINTS
- Japan’s participation in the 2011 Copa America remains up in the air following JFA president Junji Ogura’s trip to South America for talks this week. The Japanese association initially announced their withdrawal on Tuesday, before retracting the decision after a plea from the Argentinean organisers. A final decision is due on Friday 15 April.
- Atsuto Uchida’s Schalke 04 are on the verge of a first-ever UEFA Champions League last four appearance after a stunning 5-2 victory at the home of reigning European and world champions Internazionale. Uchida played the full 90 minutes of Tuesday’s quarter-final first leg, with Yuto Nagatomo appearing as a late substitute for Inter.
- This Saturday (9 April) will see two further charity matches in aid of the earthquake recovery effort. Shimizu S-Pulse host neighbours Jubilo Iwata at Nihondaira, kicking off at 1pm, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima take on Vissel Kobe at the Big Arch from 2pm.


AFC Champions League group stage results (Eastern zone; matchday 3)
Group E
Jeju United (KOR) 2-1 Gamba Osaka (JPN)
Tianjin Teda (CHN) 1-1 Melbourne Victory (AUS)

Group F
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 1-1 FC Seoul (KOR)
Hangzhou Greentown (CHN) 0-0 Al-Ain (UAE)

Group G
Arema FC (IDN) 1-1 Shandong Luneng (CHN)
Cerezo Osaka (JPN) 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)

Group H
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR) 1-1 Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Sydney FC (AUS) 1-1 Shanghai Shenhua (CHN)


Donations to support relief efforts for the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are still being accepted by the Red Cross and a number of other charities.

Japanese Red Cross Society: http://www.jrc.or.jp/
British Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org.uk/JapanTsunami
American Red Cross: http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_NewsArticle
Global Giving: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/japan-earthquake-tsunami-relief/
UNICEF Japan: http://www.unicef.or.jp/

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