Monday 30 July 2012

Japan’s men and women safely through the Olympic group stages



Japan’s Olympic footballers have enjoyed a hugely impressive start to their medal quests in the United Kingdom, with both the men’s and women’s teams securing qualification for the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

24 hours before the spectacular opening ceremony in London, Takashi Sekizuka’s side pulled off the first real shock of the 2012 Games by beating the favourites Spain 1-0 at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Yuki Otsu slotted home from a Takahiro Ogihara corner on 34 minutes to stun the Spanish, who had Inigo Martinez sent off just before half time for pulling down Kensuke Nagai.

Nagai was then the hero in the early hours of this morning Japanese time with a late winner to see off Morocco in Newcastle.

Japan were made to work hard for their second straight 1-0 victory but recovered from a difficult start to slowly take control, with Maya Yoshida putting a free header wide just before the interval and Hiroshi Kiyotake cracking a shot against the crossbar early in the second period.

But with time running out, Nagai raced onto a lobbed pass from Kiyotake and beat the onrushing goalkeeper Mohamed Amsif to the ball, lofting it superbly into the vacated net from almost 30 yards.

A point from their final group game against Honduras on Wednesday will ensure top spot, thereby avoiding Brazil in the last eight.

Nadeshiko Japan beat Canada 2-1 in Coventry last Wednesday before a goalless draw with fellow women’s powerhouse Sweden at the same venue on Saturday guaranteed their progression from Group F.

Nahomi Kawasumi struck a terrific opener from a narrow angle to open the scoring against the Canadians after excellent work from Homare Sawa and Shinobu Ono, before a header from captain Aya Miyama doubled the advantage just before half time.

Melissa Tancredi pulled one back but Japan generally remained comfortable throughout. The only real issue appears to be a lack of decisiveness in front of goal; something that was again evident against Sweden as a succession of Nadeshiko stars missed chances to convert their domination into three points.

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In the J. League, Nagai’s parent club Nagoya Grampus felt the absence of their young starlet on Saturday as their title challenge was hit by an embarrassing 2-1 defeat away to bottom side Consadole Sapporo.

The hosts took the lead on ten minutes when Ramon, one of three new overseas players making their Consadole debuts, played in Masaki Yamamoto on the overlap to fire confidently past Yoshinari Takagi.

Grampus were level three minutes later when Marcus Tulio Tanaka, forced to play up front with Joshua Kennedy and Keiji Tamada also missing through injury, scrambled the ball home from a corner. But they lacked the necessary bite in front of goal and were made to pay in second half injury time when Shinya Uehara headed in a Yamamoto cross to give Sapporo only their second win of the season.

Albirex Niigata’s resurgence under new boss Masaaki Yanagishita continued with a 2-0 victory away to FC Tokyo that takes them out of the relegation zone for the first time since April. Yuta Mikado fired home through a crowd of players before Alan Mineiro finished off a classy passing move with a fine shot from a difficult angle.

Gamba Osaka remain six points adrift of safety despite a 1-1 draw away to Vissel Kobe, now managed by former Gamba boss Akira Nishino, with Omiya Ardija the new target in 15th after their 4-1 drubbing at Kawasaki Frontale took them below Niigata on goal difference. Cerezo Osaka fell into the bottom three after losing by the same margin away to Kashiwa Reysol.

The reigning champions are now just four points off the summit in fourth following draws for each of the top two; Sanfrecce Hiroshima pegged back to 2-2 at Kashima Antlers and Vegalta Sendai held 1-1 at home to Sagan Tosu.

Urawa Reds are three points behind the leaders after beating Jubilo Iwata 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run to ten. Meanwhile, Yokohama F Marinos are up to sixth and unbeaten in a dozen league matches thanks to a 3-0 rout of Shimizu S-Pulse, now winless in nine.


TALKING POINTS
- Ventforet Kofu beat Tokyo Verdy 3-1 on Sunday evening to take over at the top of J2.
- Shinji Kagawa scored his first goal for Manchester United in a 1-0 friendly win over Shanghai Shenhua, controlling a cutback from Bébé to volley in from close range.


Olympic Games results – Men’s
GROUP D
Honduras 2-2 Morocco
Spain 0-1 Japan
Japan 1
-0 Morocco
Spain 0-1 Honduras

Olympic Games results – Women’s
GROUP F
Japan 2-1 Canada
Sweden 4-1 South Africa
Japan 0-0 Sweden
Canada 3-0 South Africa


J1 results (matchday 19)
Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Nagoya Grampus
Urawa Reds 2-0 Jubilo Iwata
Vegalta Sendai 1-1 Sagan Tosu
Kashima Antlers 2-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
FC Tokyo 0-2 Albirex Niigata
Kashiwa Reysol 4-1 Cerezo Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 Omiya Ardija
Yokohama F Marinos 3-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Gamba Osaka


J2 results (matchday 26)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Machida Zelvia 1-2 Kyoto Sanga
Ventforet Kofu 3-1 Tokyo Verdy
Kataller Toyama 0-0 Yokohama FC
Gainare Tottori 1-0 FC Gifu
Ehime FC 1-2 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 0-3 Thespa Kusatsu
Shonan Bellmare 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Montedio Yamagata 1-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Fagiano Okayama 0-1 JEF United Chiba
Roasso Kumamoto 0-3 Tokushima Vortis


Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final first leg results
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 FC Tokyo
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Cerezo Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 1-3 Kashiwa Reysol

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