Monday 01 October 2012

Sanfrecce move five points clear while record-breaking Sapporo prepare for J2



Sanfrecce Hiroshima took a massive step towards claiming their first ever J. League championship with a 4-1 victory over Sagan Tosu, as closest rivals Vegalta Sendai slipped to defeat away to Shimizu S-Pulse.

Faced with a challenging fixture on paper against the side with the meanest defensive record in the top flight, Sanfrecce opened the scoring on the half hour thanks to Kohei Shimizu’s solo run and finish, before being helped on their way further by a highly controversial penalty decision from referee Hajime Matsuo.

Tosu defender Keita Isozaki clearly played the ball away well before colliding with Hironori Ishikawa, after both players had run in from different angles. But Matsuo pointed to the spot, to the astonishment of the away side, and Hisato Sato took the invitation to calmly plant the ball into the roof of the net.

Sato turned provider in the second half, rounding goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi before cutting back for the grateful Koji Morisaki. Yohei Toyoda headed a late consolation, but Sato chased down a long ball from Mihael Mikić to loft a volley over Akahoshi in the 95th minute for his club record 20th league goal of the campaign.

The celebrations were doubly sweet in Hiroshima with the news that Shimizu had come from behind to beat second-placed Sendai 3-1 at Nihondaira.

Yoshiaki Ota crossed for right-back Naoki Sugai to head home from a striker’s position and give the visitors a 1-0 half-time lead, but the match turned dramatically when Vegalta defender Jiro Kamata was sent off on the hour for two yellow cards in the space of just four minutes.

S-Pulse quickly took advantage, Kim Hyun-Sung heading an equaliser from Calvin Jong-a-Pin’s cross to mark his first J. League goal since his loan move from FC Seoul. Debutant Yuji Senuma, a fourth-year student at Tsukuba University, then announced his arrival by putting the hosts in front with another header on 84 minutes.

Not to be outdone, Kim embarrassed Takuto Hayashi in added time when his 45-yard attempt slipped through the goalkeeper’s fingers and over the line for Shimizu’s third.

Sendai are now five points behind Hiroshima, and only ahead of third-placed Urawa Reds on goal difference after the latter put last week’s 5-0 demolition by Gamba Osaka behind them with a dramatic 2-1 win at champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Moments before the final whistle, substitute forward Popo raced onto Shinya Yajima’s flick-on from a terrific long throw by ’keeper Nobuhiro Kato, and somehow got the ball between the hesitating Ryoichi Kurisawa and Koji Inada for Urawa’s winner.

It looks to be a three-way battle for the title now, with fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata slipping 11 points off the Hiroshima pace with a 2-1 loss at FC Tokyo.

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Consadole Sapporo have broken the J. League record for the fastest ever relegation, after a 1-0 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale removed any mathematical hope of survival with fully seven matches still to play.

An utterly miserable year for Nobuhiro Ishizaki’s side has seen them lose all but four of their 27 league games to date, and still needing six more points to even equal the J1 worst of 16 shared by Yokohama FC (2007) and Shonan Bellmare (2010).

Cerezo Osaka took a major step towards ensuring they won’t be joining Sapporo in J2 next season – coming from behind to seal their second dramatic 3-2 victory in a week, this time away to Vissel Kobe.

Goals in the first 17 minutes by Keijiro Ogawa and Takahiro Soma, both from Ken Tokura assists, looked to have put Kobe in command, and while Fabio Simplicio pulled one back for Cerezo, the game appeared up when Yusuke Maruhashi was dismissed for a reckless sliding challenge on Takuya Nozawa.

But the ten men of Cerezo fought on, levelling when Yoichiro Kakitani’s solo run and cross found Simplicio unmarked at the far post for his second. And when Kobe defender Kazumichi Takagi allowed a throw-in to bounce over his head, Takuma Edamura raced on to blast home the winner from the edge of the box with nine minutes remaining.

The result now leaves Vissel just four points clear of danger, although manager Akira Nishino was thankful that his old charges Gamba Osaka could only draw 2-2 with Kashima Antlers despite another brace from Leandro.

Albirex Niigata achieved the shock result of the weekend, thrashing Nagoya Grampus 5-0 with all of the goals coming in the second half. Brazilian forward Michael netted twice, but the best of the bunch was a wonderful curling shot into the far corner from just outside the penalty area by his compatriot Bruno Lopes.

Niigata join Gamba on 29 points, two behind 15th-placed Omiya Ardija who clung on to draw 0-0 with Yokohama F Marinos despite a red card for Zlatan Ljubijankič.


J1 results (matchday 27)
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Vegalta Sendai
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-1 Sagan Tosu
FC Tokyo 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Albirex Niigata 5-0 Nagoya Grampus
Vissel Kobe 2-3 Cerezo Osaka
Omiya Ardija 0-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Urawa Reds
Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Consadole Sapporo


J2 results (matchday 36)
Mito HollyHock 3-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Tochigi SC 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
Gainare Tottori 2-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Machida Zelvia 1-3 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Yokohama FC
Montedio Yamagata 1-1 Tokyo Verdy
Ehime FC 2-2 JEF United Chiba
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Shonan Bellmare P-P Roasso Kumamoto
Tokushima Vortis P-P Kyoto Sanga
Matsumoto Yamaga P-P FC Gifu



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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