Monday 21 November 2011

Kashiwa get one hand on the title



Four points from their remaining two matches will be enough to secure a historic J. League championship for Kashiwa Reysol in their first season after promotion from J2, following a dramatic 2-1 win away to Shimizu S-Pulse on Sunday afternoon.

Afshin Ghotbi’s home side were on a good run of late season form, having won their previous three matches at Nihondaira, and looked to have thrown a spanner into the Reysol works with the game’s opening goal shortly before half time. Fredrik Ljungberg was felled by Ryoichi Kurisawa, providing Australian centre-back Eddy Bosnar with the opportunity to smash home a trademark low free kick from almost 35 yards.

But Masato Kudo levelled with a low header just after the hour mark as Kashiwa laid siege to the Shimizu goal in search of the result that would reaffirm their position at the top, after Nagoya Grampus had temporarily risen to the summit on goal difference with victory at Yokohama F Marinos 24 hours earlier. Kudo thought he had found the scoresheet again from another header on 69 minutes only to be denied by an offside flag.

The winning goal finally arrived with five minutes remaining. Jorge Wagner’s powerful shot from the left-hand side of the penalty area was well parried by S-Pulse ‘keeper Kaito Yamamoto, but Leandro Domingues was able to quickly adjust his body position and skilfully head the ball into the empty net.

Gamba Osaka went into the antepenultimate weekend in second position but their hopes of a first league title in six years suffered a heavy blow with a 2-2 draw at Albirex Niigata that sees them drop four points off the pace.

It could have been worse for the Kansai side as goals from Yuta Mikado and Bruno Lopes put the hosts into a 2-0 lead with just 20 minutes remaining. Rookie striker Shota Kawanishi saved Gamba’s blushes with two expertly taken goals in an explosive substitute appearance, but despite near-constant pressure until the final whistle they were unable to complete the comeback.

This allowed reigning champions Nagoya to establish themselves as the closest challengers to Kashiwa, three points off the lead, after their tight 2-1 win in Yokohama. A controversial free kick by Shunsuke Nakamura – taken while the Grampus wall was still lining up – looked set to earn Marinos a point before Joshua Kennedy headed home the winner on 83 minutes.

Victory for Reysol at home to Cerezo Osaka next Saturday would seal the title if Nagoya fail to beat Montedio Yamagata. Both Nagoya and Gamba have, however, now ensured their places in next season’s AFC Champions League.

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Urawa Reds inched closer to survival with a goalless draw on a near-waterlogged pitch against Vegalta Sendai, as third-from-bottom Ventforet Kofu went down to a painful 2-1 defeat at Jubilo Iwata.

Hidetaka Kanazono converted low crosses from Gilsinho and Yuichi Komano to score twice in the opening ten minutes for Jubilo, and while a first professional goal for Atsushi Izawa quickly reduced the deficit to one, Ventforet were frustrated thereafter as they struggled to create the chances that might have rescued a point or better.

Their disappointment was further aggravated in second half stoppage time with a second yellow card for star striker Mike Havenaar – although, perversely, the dismissal will actually free the Japan international to play on the final day of the season. The red card triggered an automatic one-match ban, overriding the two-game suspension Havenaar would have received for his eighth caution of the year.

The loss for Kofu also ensured the survival of four other sides – Omiya Ardija, who drew 1-1 with Kashima Antlers; Kawasaki Frontale, who came from behind to win 3-2 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima; Cerezo Osaka, despite a 3-0 home drubbing by Kansai rivals Vissel Kobe; and Albirex Niigata.

Relegated Avispa Fukuoka moved off the bottom of the table for the first time all season with a crushing 5-0 rout of Montedio Yamagata.


TALKING POINTS
- FC Tokyo secured promotion back to J1 at the first attempt with an easy 5-1 win away to Gainare Tottori on Saturday, and were handed the J2 title 24 hours later as closest challengers Sagan Tosu slipped to a surprise 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Giravanz Kitakyushu.
- Matsumoto Yamaga of the third-tier Japan Football League will be the sole non-J. League side in the last 16 of the Emperor’s Cup after beating Albirex Niigata 1-0 last Wednesday. J2 strugglers Mito HollyHock and Ehime FC also created shocks with wins away to Gamba Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, respectively.

That’s all for today – join me again next week for news from the penultimate weekend, in which the title and relegation battles could be decided. Bye for now!


J1 results (matchday 32)
Urawa Reds 0-0 Vegalta Sendai
Yokohama F Marinos 1-2 Nagoya Grampus
Albirex Niigata 2-2 Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 2-1 Ventforet Kofu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-3 Kawasaki Frontale
Montedio Yamagata 0-5 Avispa Fukuoka
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka 0-3 Vissel Kobe


Emperor’s Cup third round results
Nagoya Grampus 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Kashiwa Reysol 6-1 Ventforet Kofu
Yokohama F Marinos 3-0 Tochigi SC
Albirex Niigata 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Kataller Toyama (after extra time)
Montedio Yamagata 2-3 Kyoto Sanga
Kawasaki Frontale 4-0 Oita Trinita
Fukuoka University 0-3 Shonan Bellmare (after extra time)
Gamba Osaka 2-3 Mito HollyHock (after extra time)
FC Tokyo 2-1 Vissel Kobe (after extra time)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 Ehime FC
Urawa Reds 2-1 Tokyo Verdy
Cerezo Osaka 3-0 Fagiano Okayama
Vegalta Sendai 3-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Shimizu S-Pulse 5-0 Gainare Tottori
Jubilo Iwata 0-1 JEF United Chiba

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