Monday 12 March 2012

Six-goal thriller for Reysol and Marinos while Kobe ease to Kansai derby win




A minute’s silence was observed at football grounds across Japan as the 2012 J1 season kicked off on the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the east coast of the country on 11 March last year.

Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol were fittingly involved in the most entertaining and dramatic fixture of the opening weekend, leading three times but ultimately having to settle for a share of the spoils in a 3-3 draw at home to Yokohama F Marinos.

Having suffered a shock defeat away to Buriram United of Thailand in the Asian Champions League in midweek, Kashiwa were quick to demonstrate that they had lost none of their mojo with an eye-pleasing opener on just three minutes. Jorge Wagner executed a spectacular scissor kick to cut back a lofted free kick from Leandro Domingues and into the path of Hiroki Sakai for his first ever J. League goal.

Masashi Oguro equalised soon afterwards with a close range volley that was every bit as impressive, but the hosts were back in front in still only the 12th minute thanks to a perfectly placed shot from new Japan international Junya Tanaka.

Returning to Marinos after a successful year on loan at Ehime FC, 21-year-old Manabu Saito then exhibited his exciting potential by firing home a second equaliser from just outside the box after three defenders had failed to stop his dribble from the right flank. Again, however, the visitors’ hard work was undone when they left Leandro far too much room to run and size up a delightful effort from 25 yards that left Hiroki Iikura stranded.

Yokohama thought they had levelled things up again when Oguro’s shot bounced off the crossbar and seemingly just behind the line, only for the officials to controversially signal play to continue. But their great persistence finally paid off in the second minute of stoppage time when substitute Hiroyuki Taniguchi got his head to a Yuzo Kobayashi cross to tie things up once again.

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Vissel Kobe laid down an early marker for supremacy in the Kansai region with a 3-2 win away to Gamba Osaka that was perhaps more comfortable than the final scoreline appears.

A woeful lack of coherency throughout the home eleven was well exemplified when Kobe new boy Takuya Nozawa slipped over in the penalty area, but was still granted enough time and space to stand up and square for an unmarked Yoshito Okubo to slot into the empty net.

Paulinho marked his Gamba debut with an impressive equaliser from 25 yards, but Nozawa set pieces laid on further goals for Okubo and Hideo Hashimoto – who left Banpaku after 14 years at the end of last season. A late rally saw Rafinha pull one back deep into added time.

Brazilian veteran Lucas hit a stunning winner from the D as J2 champions FC Tokyo, inspired by the heroics of goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, celebrated their return to the top flight with a 1-0 victory at Omiya Ardija. Fellow promoted sides Consadole Sapporo and Sagan Tosu made steady starts with goalless draws at home to Jubilo Iwata and Cerezo Osaka, respectively.

A Joshua Kennedy penalty was sufficient to seal a 1-0 success for an influent Nagoya Grampus against Shimizu S-Pulse, while new Urawa Reds manager Mihalo Petrović and defender Tomoaki Makino suffered defeat by a similar scoreline in their first return to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale beat Albirex Niigata 1-0, while a meeting of the two J1 clubs most directly affected by last year’s disaster saw Vegalta Sendai edge Kashima Antlers by the same score thanks to a headed goal from new arrival Taikai Uemoto.


TALKING POINTS
- Japan will renew their rivalry with last year’s Asian Cup final opponents Australia in the final round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Their group also contains Oman, Jordan, and Iraq – who are managed by former Samurai Blue boss Zico.
- FC Tokyo opened their ACL campaign with a 2-0 win away to Brisbane Roar on Tuesday, but there was disappointment elsewhere as Nagoya were pegged back to a 2-2 draw with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, while Gamba were thrashed 3-0 at home by Pohang Steelers.
- Tokushima Vortis head the embryonic J2 table after a 3-0 victory over FC Gifu.


J1 results (matchday 1)
Consadole Sapporo 0-0 Jubilo Iwata
Vegalta Sendai 1-0 Kashima Antlers
Nagoya Grampus 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Gamba Osaka 2-3 Vissel Kobe
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 Urawa Reds
Sagan Tosu 0-0 Cerezo Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Albirex Niigata
Omiya Ardija 0-1 FC Tokyo
Kashiwa Reysol 3-3 Yokohama F Marinos


J2 results (matchday 2)
Mito HollyHock 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Tochigi SC 0-3 Oita Trinita
Machida Zelvia 0-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-2 Montedio Yamagata
Tokushima Vortis 3-0 FC Gifu
Giravanz Kitakyushu 0-0 Fagiano Okayama
Thespa Kusatsu 1-3 Shonan Bellmare
Tokyo Verdy 1-3 Ventforet Kofu
Yokohama FC 0-0 Ehime FC
Roasso Kumamoto 2-1 Gainare Tottori
Kyoto Sanga 2-0 JEF United Chiba


AFC Champions League group stage results (East Asia, matchday 1)
Group E
Gamba Osaka (JPN) 0-3 Pohang Steelers
Bunyodkor (UZB) 1-2 Adelaide United (AUS)

Group F
Brisbane Roar (AUS) 0-2 FC Tokyo (JPN)
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) 2-1 Beijing Guoan (CHN)

Group G
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 2-2 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR)
Tianjin Teda (CHN) 0-0 Central Coast Mariners (AUS)

Group H
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) 1-5 Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
Buriram United (THA) 3-2 Kashiwa Reysol (JPN)

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