Monday 16 April 2012

Leaders edge champions in free-scoring J1 weekend



After a relatively low key start to the 2012 season, the J. League burst into life on Saturday with 28 goals scored across the nine top flight matches. Early leaders Vegalta Sendai issued a statement of intent to the rest of the division with a 3-2 victory away to reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol.

The visitors took the lead after just two minutes when a corner from Yoshiaki Ota found the head of Vegalta defender Naoki Sugai. Leandro Domingues levelled the scores with a fabulous free kick early in the second half, but Kashiwa were behind again almost immediately thanks to a second goal in as many matches from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi after Wilson’s skilful footwork tore a hole through the defence.

Leandro equalised again, somewhat bizarrely, when his half-hearted attempt from a narrow angle somehow squirmed through the legs of Takuto Hayashi in the visitors’ goal. But Shingo Akamine was on hand to seal all three points for Sendai from another Ota cross, and the champions’ misery was complete when Leandro was sent off for a second yellow card late on.

Shimizu S-Pulse leapfrogged local rivals Jubilo Iwata into sixth place in the middle of the chasing pack with a 3-2 win in the first Shizuoka derby of the year.

The home side at Nihondaira recovered from the concession of a Cho Byung-Kuk opener to equalise through Toshiyuki Takagi right on half time, before two well taken goals by Genki Omae bookended the second 45 minutes and gave S-Pulse an unassailable advantage despite an even later consolation strike by Kosuke Yamamoto.

In the weekend’s third 3-2 scoreline, Gamba Osaka finally secured three points for the first time this season thanks to a dramatic comeback against manager-less Kawasaki Frontale.

Despite the midweek sacking of former boss Naoki Soma, Kawasaki came out of the blocks quickly to lead after just 19 seconds through Yusuke Sakata’s header, before Yu Kobayashi was left totally unmarked at a Sakata corner on the half hour to seemingly push Gamba towards their fifth league defeat in six.

But a Sota Nakazawa header at the end of the first half restored hope for Masanobu Matsunami’s men, who rose to the occasion to turn things around in the second period thanks to goals from new boys Akihiro Sato and Hiroyuki Abe.

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Kashima Antlers moved off the foot of the table with their first win of the season away to highflying FC Tokyo.

After Shinzo Koroki dinked the visitors into a first half lead, Tokyo levelled in unusual fashion with just six minutes remaining when Sotan Tanabe eventually fired the ball in through a melee of players at an indirect free kick awarded when Hitoshi Sogahata handled a back pass.

Hitoshi Shiota had committed a similar offence earlier in the match after replacing the injured Shuichi Gonda, but although the hosts had survived on that occasion, his day was ruined when a poor parry from Juninho’s attempt left an open goal for Yasushi Endo to win it deep into stoppage time.

With Sanfrecce Hiroshima also losing 1-0 away to the impressive J1 newcomers Sagan Tosu, Urawa Reds took advantage to move up as high as second with a 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe. Yuki Abe netted his first goal since returning from Leicester City, while Marcio Richardes converted a trademark free kick late on.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus rose to third with a comfortable 3-1 win over Consadole Sapporo, who drop to the bottom. Cerezo Osaka surprisingly succumbed to Albirex Niigata’s first victory of the campaign, while winless Yokohama F Marinos played out a 1-1 draw with Omiya Ardija.


TALKING POINTS
- Shonan Bellmare maintained their unbeaten start in J2, defeating Yokohama FC 3-2 to stand four points clear of Kyoto Sanga at the summit.
- Shinji Kagawa’s Borussia Dortmund need just one more point to seal their second straight Bundesliga crown after coming from behind to edge Atsuto Uchida’s Schalke 04 2-1 in the Ruhr derby.
- In women’s football, Nadeshiko League champions INAC Kobe Leonessa began the defence of their title in spectacular fashion with a 7-0 thrashing of newly-promoted Speranza FC Osaka Takatsuki on Sunday afternoon.


J1 results (matchday 6)
Kashiwa Reysol 2-3 Vegalta Sendai
FC Tokyo 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 2-0 Vissel Kobe
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Jubilo Iwata
Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Consadole Sapporo
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Gamba Osaka 3-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Albirex Niigata


J2 results (matchday 8)
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Ehime FC
Machida Zelvia 0-3 Tochigi SC
Roasso Kumamoto 0-3 Matsumoto Yamaga
Kyoto Sanga 1-0 Tokyo Verdy
JEF United Chiba 0-0 Fagiano Okayama
Shonan Bellmare 3-2 Yokohama FC
FC Gifu 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Gainare Tottori 0-0 Ventforet Kofu
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Mito HollyHock
Oita Trinita 0-0 Tokushima Vortis

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