Monday 17 September 2012

Hiroshima win top two battle as title race closes up

The J. League title race took another dramatic twist on Saturday evening as Sanfrecce Hiroshima emerged victorious from their battle of the top two with Vegalta Sendai to leapfrog their opponents back into pole position.

After a goalless first half at a drizzly Big Arch stadium in Hiroshima, the home side took the lead in rather fortuitous fashion just three minutes into the second. Kazuyuki Morisaki was given acres of space in midfield and decided to try his luck with a low shot from almost 40 yards. The ball hit the inside of Sendai defender Taikai Uemoto’s right leg, and deflected past goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.

The visitors fought hard for an equaliser, hitting the bar through a trademark Ryang Yong-Gi free kick on 65 minutes, and finally forced their way level through a typical Vegalta move soon afterwards. Makoto Kakuda pierced the Sanfrecce defence with a low through ball for Yoshiaki Ota, whose cross was converted by Shingo Akamine with a diving header.

However, it was Hiroshima who took the spoils when Hayashi could only palm a Hironori Ishikawa cross into the path of Yojiro Takahagi, who planted the ball into the roof of the net to send the majority of the 23,352 spectators home happy.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men now have a two point lead at the summit, with Sendai only ahead of Urawa Reds on goal difference after the latter came from behind to win 2-1 at Yokohama F Marinos. Marquinhos gave the hosts the lead after just five minutes but Urawa hit back with strikes from Japan internationals Yosuke Kashiwagi and Tomoaki Makino.

Jubilo Iwata and Nagoya Grampus both remained in the title picture with away victories that take them to within six points of the top; Iwata edging ten-man Vissel Kobe 2-1, and Nagoya beating Cerezo Osaka 2-0 in a game that was delayed for more than an hour due to a thunderstorm.

Reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol are two points further back in sixth after a 3-1 home victory over Consadole Sapporo.


At the other end of the table, Gamba Osaka slipped back into the bottom three after surrendering two points at home to relegation battle rivals Albirex Niigata.

A superb first-half strike from Leandro, his seventh goal in six appearances since returning to the club, looked to have set Gamba on their way to a crucial victory, but a series of defensive substitutions from manager Masanobu Matsunami throughout a woeful second half performance set up a nervy climax.

Ultimately, Keisuke Iwashita slid in foolishly on Michael to give Niigata a penalty in the last of the 90, and Bruno Lopes made no mistake to keep them on level points with their opponents.

Omiya Ardija were the beneficiaries, pulling two points clear of the relegation zone thanks to Kosuke Kikuchi’s header in a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu.

Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale came from two behind to draw 2-2 at home to Kashima Antlers, while Shimizu S-Pulse played out a 1-1 draw with FC Tokyo.

- Hiroshi Kiyotake’s brilliant start to life in Germany continued with two assists and a superb winning goal in Nürnberg’s 3-2 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach.
- Takashi Inui, a former teammate of Kiyotake at Cerezo Osaka, scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 3-2 win for Eintracht Frankfurt over Hamburg.
- Maya Yoshida earned praise from Southampton manager Nigel Adkins after making his Premier League debut as a first-half substitute on Saturday, but was unable to help the Saints avoid a 6-1 thrashing away to Arsenal.

J1 results (matchday 25)
Cerezo Osaka 0-2 Nagoya Grampus
Omiya Ardija 1-0 Sagan Tosu
Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 Consadole Sapporo
Kawasaki Frontale 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 1-2 Urawa Reds
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Jubilo Iwata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 Vegalta Sendai

J2 results (matchday 33)
Mito HollyHock 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Tochigi SC 1-1 Tokushima Vortis
Tokyo Verdy 1-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Shonan Bellmare 2-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Fagiano Okayama
Matsumoto Yamaga 3-0 Machida Zelvia
Kataller Toyama 2-0 JEF United Chiba
Ehime FC 0-1 Yokohama FC
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-1 FC Gifu
Oita Trinita 2-0 Kyoto Sanga
Gainare Tottori 2-1 Montedio Yamagata

Ben Mabley will be analysing the English Premier League for the JSports programme ‘Foot!’ this season, every Tuesday night at 10pm on JSports 3.

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