Monday 25 June 2012

Stalemates at the top as Sanfrecce miss chance to pull level with Vegalta



J. League leaders Vegalta Sendai survived a test of their title credentials as they drew 0-0 away to third-placed Urawa Reds, but closest challengers Sanfrecce Hiroshima were unable to take advantage after their home match with Omiya Ardija also ended goalless.

Sendai found themselves frustrated by their hosts’ deep defensive line for much of the first half and surrendered their control over proceedings at the start of the second, almost falling behind when a 25-yard effort from Marcio Richardes struck the post with goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi beaten.

Tsukasa Umesaki was also denied by the woodwork as the game gradually opened up, with his header from Tomoya Ugajin’s cross pushed onto the bar by Hayashi, who was able to gather at the second attempt.

Makoto Teguramori’s side failed to create any real opportunities in the final quarter of the game and were forced to settle for a point, but they were at least given a boost when striker Shingo Akamine came off the bench after returning from an abductor muscle injury.

Hiroshima had the chance to pull level at the top in what appeared a straightforward home encounter with fourth-from-bottom Omiya, but were unable to break the ensuing deadlock despite registering 20 shots on goal to their opponents’ five.

With the bulk of the chances coming in the second half, Ryota Moriwaki ought to have done better than to fire over when found unmarked at a corner kick, while J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato couldn’t get a clean header onto an inviting cross from Hyang Seok-Ho in the dying minutes.

The big movers in the tightening top half of the table were FC Tokyo, who rose two positions to fifth thanks to a 2-0 home win over Cerezo Osaka; and Nagoya Grampus, who continued their quiet ascent in beating Jubilo Iwata by the same scoreline.

Kensuke Nagai missed a headed sitter in the first half but made up for it after the interval to impress the watching Japan Olympic coach Takashi Sekizuka with a solo run, 1-2 with Jungo Fujimoto, and cool finish for Nagoya’s second.

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Gamba Osaka found their shooting boots to pick up only their third league win of the season and move within four points of safety, following a 4-0 thrashing of bottom club Consadole Sapporo at the Sapporo Dome.

They had some fortune for the opener when Yasuhito Endo’s corner deflected in off Consadole midfielder Masaki Yamamoto, but the other three strikes were all real gems; Shu Kurata doubling the advantage on 26 minutes with a terrific effort from outside the box.

Endo then made history with his 16th J. League goal from a direct free kick – beating the record of his former Yokohama Flügels teammate Atsuhiro Miura with 15 – before substitute Takuya Takei hit a powerful low shot past Tetsu Sugiyama late in the second half.

Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol dominated much of their encounter with Kashima Antlers, but left it until the 94th minute to rescue a point after falling behind to a superb first goal of the season from Mitsuo Ogasawara.

Leandro Domingues looked to have blown the last chance when his penalty was pushed onto the post by Hitoshi Sogahata, but Naoya Kondo was first to connect with the rebound and fire into the gaping net.

Vissel Kobe enjoyed a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata in the battle of the new managers, while a meeting of the division’s joint best defences ended in a 1-1 draw between Shimizu S-Pulse and Sagan Tosu.

Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale and Yokohama F Marinos drew a blank in the Kanagawa derby, which was largely notable for an ankle sprain for former Japan star Shunsuke Nakamura.


TALKING POINTS
- Shinji Kagawa has completed his transfer to Manchester United, passing a medical and signing a four-year contract with the 19-times English champions on Friday.
- The Nadeshiko Japan women’s team have been in Sweden preparing for the London Olympics, suffering a 4-1 friendly defeat to the United States but beating their hosts 1-0 thanks to Yuki Nagasato.


J1 results (matchday 15)
Consadole Sapporo 0-4 Gamba Osaka
FC Tokyo 2-0 Cerezo Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Sagan Tosu
Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-0 Omiya Ardija
Urawa Reds 0-0 Vegalta Sendai
Kawasaki Frontale 0-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Nagoya Grampus 2-0 Jubilo Iwata
Vissel Kobe 1-0 Albirex Niigata


J2 results (matchday 21)
Mito HollyHock 3-1 Kyoto Sanga
Yokohama FC 1-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-2 Tochigi SC
Kataller Toyama 0-2 Roasso Kumamoto
FC Gifu 1-0 Machida Zelvia
Fagiano Okayama 1-1 Ventforet Kofu
Giravanz Kitakyushu 0-2 Oita Trinita
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Tokushima Vortis
JEF United Chiba 1-1 Shonan Bellmare
Ehime FC 3-1 Tokyo Verdy
Thespa Kusatsu 1-2 Gainare Tottori

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