Monday 22 August 2011

Free-scoring, free-conceding Gamba look down upon all others



Rafinha continued the dream start to his Gamba Osaka career with a second half hat-trick to help Akira Nishino’s men to a typically goal-laden 6-3 victory over Kawasaki Frontale – a result that takes them to the summit of the J1 table.

Having missed the opportunity to go top on Wednesday following a dominant but ultimately frustrating 2-2 draw with previous leaders Nagoya Grampus, Gamba were quick out of the blocks on a rainy evening at Banpaku and led 2-0 inside half an hour through Shoki Hirai and Kim Seung-Yong.

Incredibly, Frontale recovered in even more rapid fashion to stun their hosts and lead 3-2 into the interval. Close-range efforts from Takuro Yajima and Kengo Nakamura soon levelled the scores before Koji Yamase fired home a cracking 25-yarder on the stroke of half time.

But the match turned Gamba’s way again moments after the restart when the already-booked Yuki Saneto was harshly dismissed for a challenge on Hirai in the 18-yard area. Rafinha coolly converted from the spot, and despite strong Kawasaki resistance, Tomokazu Myojin finally put the Osaka side back in front from just outside the box on 78 minutes.

The Brazilian added the sixth and seventh goals since his mid-season transfer from Thespa Kusatsu late on to confirm a club record fifth straight league defeat for the visitors.

Nagoya slipped to third after their 16-game, three-month unbeaten run was surprisingly ended in a 1-0 home defeat to Vegalta Sendai – who were winless in nine before the Saturday evening encounter. Naoki Sugai struck the only goal on 17 minutes after Yoshiaki Ota’s deflected shot had wrong-footed the entire Grampus defence.

Kashiwa Reysol endured a nervy 3-2 home win over bottom side Avispa Fukuoka to go second behind Gamba on goal difference, while fourth-placed Yokohama F Marinos left it late to seal a 1-0 victory over Jubilo Iwata. Shunsuke Nakamura saw his penalty saved by former Japan teammate Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi early in the second half, but Yuji Ono brilliantly controlled a long pass from Yuzo Kurihara to slot home the winner with six minutes remaining.

The results mean that the top four are now separated by just one point.

------------

Poor results for both Saitama clubs have potentially reignited the battle for survival, as fourth-from-bottom Omiya Ardija could only draw 1-1 at home to lowly Montedio Yamagata.

Substitute Naoki Ishihara looked to have set the Squirrels en route to a vital three points when he opened the scoring inside a minute of his arrival late in the second half, but Tetsuro Ota equalised soon afterwards to ensure that Yamagata at least remain within eight points of safety.

Omiya’s margin for error over 16th position, however, has been reduced to just four points after neighbours Urawa Reds suffered a first ever defeat at the hands of Ventforet Kofu. Paulinho was the hero of the hour, registering two goals plus an assist for Mike Havenaar’s tenth league strike of the season all before half time. Yosuke Kashiwagi and Sergio Escudero netted in reply as the Reds went down 3-2.

Elsewhere, Ryuji Bando came off the bench to score an 11-minute hat-trick as Cerezo Osaka played out a thrilling 3-3 draw away to Shimizu S-Pulse. The hosts led 1-0 for most of the game through Shinji Ono’s early header but fell behind twice in a crazy final quarter of an hour, only to be rescued by equalisers from first Toshiyuki Takagi and finally Naohiro Takahara.

Kashima Antlers beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 to seal their fifth straight league win and move up to fifth position, albeit fully nine points adrift of the leading quartet. Vissel Kobe rose to eighth after coming from behind to beat Albirex Niigata 2-1.


TALKING POINTS
- Japan’s path through qualification for the 2014 World Cup has been smoothed with the news that Group C opponents Syria have been disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the second round knockout phase. Their place will be taken by 142nd-ranked Tajikistan, who were awarded the tie by default having originally lost to the Syrians 6-1 on aggregate.
- FC Tokyo only lead Tokushima Vortis on goal difference at the head of J2 after a 2-1 loss at Tochigi SC, who are now a point behind in third.
- Makoto Hasebe scored the opening goal but could do little else to prevent VfL Wolfsburg losing 4-1 away to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Keisuke Honda converted a trademark free kick as CSKA Moscow beat Tom Tomsk 3-0 in the Russian Premier League.


J1 results (matchday 22)
Ventforet Kofu 3-2 Urawa Reds
Gamba Osaka 6-3 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 2-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-3 Cerezo Osaka
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Montedio Yamagata
Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 Jubilo Iwata
Nagoya Grampus 0-1 Vegalta Sendai
Vissel Kobe 2-1 Albirex Niigata


J1 result (matchday 9 – Wednesday 17 August)
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Nagoya Grampus

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