Monday 26 September 2011

Ventforet Kofu mix things up at both top and bottom



Third-from-bottom Ventforet Kofu generated excitement at both ends of the J1 table with a 2-0 upset away to leaders Gamba Osaka on Saturday evening.

Having comfortably absorbed the hosts’ attacks with greater organisation throughout a goalless first half, Kofu took the lead on 62 minutes when Paulinho was allowed to run unchallenged through the centre and hit a precise, low shot past the dive of Yosuke Fujigaya from fully 30 yards.

Gamba were unable to create a killer opportunity in reply, and the result was secured deep into stoppage time when Japan forward Mike Havenaar stepped inside Tomokazu Myojin and curled a shot into the far corner.

The Osaka club were, however, able to hold onto first position as both of their closest challengers also succumbed to surprise two-goal defeats at home.

Earlier on Saturday, Yokohama F Marinos surrendered 3-1 to resurgent Vegalta Sendai despite taking the lead through Yuzo Kobayashi after just three minutes. The visitors were able to turn the tables within nine minutes thereafter thanks to a 25-yard equaliser from Makoto Kakuda and a first goal for Atsushi Yanagisawa since his pre-season transfer from relegated Kyoto Sanga.

Shingo Akamine netted for the fifth match in a row to complete the scoring early in the second half.

Kashiwa Reysol squandered the opportunity to go back on top on Sunday as their record of seven straight home wins was ended in a 3-1 defeat against relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija. Confident finishes from Rafael early in each half – the second following a delightful backheel from Keigo Higashi – sent the Squirrels into a 2-0 lead, but after pulling one back for the home side, Leandro Domingues was given the perfect chance to equalise when the returning Hideaki Kitajima was felled in the penalty area by Kim Young-Gwon.

However, the Brazilian’s tame spot kick was saved by Takashi Kitano, allowing Omiya to regain the momentum and seal a vital three points on the counter attack through Takuya Aoki. The result keeps Jun Suzuki’s side five points clear of the drop zone in spite of Kofu’s earlier win.

The failings of the three pretenders to their crown made it a perfect long weekend for Nagoya Grampus, who were able to sit back and watch in comfort after beating Vissel Kobe 3-1 on public holiday Friday. The champions recovered quickly from Park Kang-Jo’s early opener to level through Marcus Tulio Tanaka, before a clever lob by Jungo Fujimoto gave them the lead on the hour mark.

J1 leading scorer Joshua Kennedy hit his 15th of the season late on to take Grampus back up to second, ahead of Kashiwa on goal difference and a point behind Gamba.

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The sides placed in most danger by Kofu’s recent run of form are Urawa Reds, who played out a goalless draw with Kashima Antlers, and Albirex Niigata, who succumbed to a first top flight goal for Tomoyuki Arata in the 91st minute of their game away to Jubilo Iwata. Both strugglers are now just two points above the relegation zone.

Bottom club Avispa Fukuoka beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 to record only their fourth league win of the season, but Tetsuya Ayano’s side remain 14 points adrift of safety and could still have their relegation confirmed by mid-October.

Second-from-bottom Montedio Yamagata were hammered 6-0 at Cerezo Osaka, with highlights for the in-form Asian Champions League quarter-finalists including a beautiful short passing move for Ryuji Bando’s opener, and a debut penalty for recent loan signing Yohei Otake.


TALKING POINTS
- Keigo Higashi and Ryohei Yamazaki were the scorers as the Japan U-22 team beat Malaysia 2-0 in their opening group stage fixture in qualification for the 2012 London Olympics last Wednesday. Syria defeated Bahrain 3-1 in the other Group C game.


J1 results (matchday 27)
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Vissel Kobe
Cerezo Osaka 6-0 Montedio Yamagata
Yokohama F Marinos 1-3 Vegalta Sendai
Kashima Antlers 0-0 Urawa Reds
Gamba Osaka 0-2 Ventforet Kofu
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Kashiwa Reysol 1-3 Omiya Ardija
Avispa Fukuoka 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima

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