Friday 04 November 2011

Status quo maintained as leaders Reysol refuse to feel the pressure



The status quo at the top of J1 was maintained on Thursday’s Culture Day holiday with all three title contenders winning – but leaders Kashiwa Reysol can be satisfied that their bid to win the title as reigning J2 champions is now a game closer to realisation after their emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Albirex Niigata.

Any possibility of nerves was removed on just eight minutes when Leandro Domingues netted from the spot after Masato Kudo had been felled by Kazuhiro Chiba. The Brazilian then doubled the advantage ten minutes before half time, latching onto a beautifully lofted through ball from compatriot Jorge Wagner to fire past Yohei Takeda.

Wagner got on the scoresheet himself ten minutes after the interval, heading home a cross from the overlapping left-back Wataru Hashimoto, and a comfortable afternoon was rounded off with a fourth by Junya Tanaka in stoppage time.

Gamba Osaka remain two points adrift in second following a professional 1-0 victory at home to Yamazaki Nabisco Cup winners Kashima Antlers. The visitors were a regular threat throughout the first half – going closest when Yuya Osako’s curling effort struck the woodwork – but Gamba found the only goal early in the second with a classic breakaway. Hiroki Fujiharu’s left-footed cross found an unmarked Rafinha for the mid-season arrival to nod in his 11th goal in 15 appearances.

Title-holders Nagoya Grampus are still just a point further back in third thanks to a 3-1 win over Cerezo Osaka. Jungo Fujimoto expertly curled home a free kick to open the scoring, and though Rui Komatsu levelled from the spot soon afterwards, J1 leading scorer Joshua Kennedy restored the Grampus advantage with a fine header three minutes before half time.

Substitute Kensuke Nagai made sure of the points late in the second period.

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Montedio Yamagata had their long-inevitable relegation confirmed after three seasons in the top flight with a 2-0 defeat at Vissel Kobe, while Ventforet Kofu threw away a great opportunity to escape the relegation zone in a crazy last five minutes at home to erstwhile title challengers Yokohama F Marinos.

Leading 1-0 through Mike Havenaar – who joins Kennedy on 17 goals for the season – the Kofu resistance broke on 86 minutes when Shunsuke Nakamura picked out former Japan teammate Masashi Oguro to head home a deserved equaliser.

But the hosts only had themselves to blame three minutes later when defender Daniel failed catastrophically in his attempt to shepherd the ball out of play, allowing Yuzo Kurihara to beat both him and goalkeeper Hiroki Aratani before cutting back to Kentaro Moriya. The Marinos substitute made no mistake in converting a dramatic winner into the empty net from 20 yards.

The result ought to have been a boost to fourth-from-bottom Urawa Reds, whose home meeting with Jubilo Iwata kicked off an hour after full time in Kofu. But once again the 2007 Asian champions crumbled in embarrassing fashion, going down 3-0 thanks to two Ryoichi Maeda goals either side of a smart lofted finish from Ryohei Yamazaki.

Urawa therefore remain just two points clear of safety, albeit with a considerably superior goal difference to Ventforet. Meanwhile, Saitama neighbours Omiya Ardija gained an invaluable 1-0 victory away at Kawasaki Frontale to all but secure their survival – moving eight points ahead of the drop zone with just nine left to play for.

Already-relegated Avispa Fukuoka came from two behind to draw 2-2 at home to Shimizu S-Pulse – with all four goals coming inside a seven-minute spell in the second half – while Vegalta Sendai played out a goalless stalemate with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.


TALKING POINTS
- Ryoichi Maeda’s two goals in Urawa were the perfect way to cap a recall to the Japan squad for next week’s World Cup qualifiers in Tajikistan and North Korea. Hiroshi Kiyotake and Atsuto Uchida both return from injury, but Keisuke Honda remains sidelined with a knee problem.


J1 results (matchday 31)
Kashiwa Reysol 4-0 Albirex Niigata
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Omiya Ardija
Ventforet Kofu 1-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Cerezo Osaka
Gamba Osaka 1-0 Kashima Antlers
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 0-3 Jubilo Iwata
Vissel Kobe 2-0 Montedio Yamagata
Avispa Fukuoka 2-2 Shimizu S-Pulse

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