Monday 22 October 2012

Tightened up again at the top and bottom of J1

Saturday’s results in J1 have left both ends of the table suddenly rather congested, with four relegation candidates separated by as many points and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s five-point lead at the top evaporated to mere goal difference in the space of just two matches.

The champions-elect suffered a last-minute 2-1 defeat at the hands of title-holders Kashiwa Reysol, hours after closest challengers Vegalta Sendai had sealed a crucial 3-2 win over third-placed Urawa Reds.

In the 1pm kickoff in Sendai, Makoto Teguramori’s men got off to the perfect start when Wilson’s cross was met by Shingo Akamine at the far post to head Vegalta into a second-minute lead.

An unmarked Wilson collected Ryang Yong-Gi’s pass to fire the hosts 2-0 in front shortly after the hour mark, but Tomoaki Makino charged forwards from the back to reduce Urawa’s deficit to one just two minutes later.

Wilson expertly feinted past an overcommitted challenge by Tadaaki Hirakawa to restore the two-goal advantage, only for Marcio Richardes to pull one back again straightaway afterwards and set up a grandstand last eight minutes.

Richardes then had a great chance to equalise right at the death, but Takuto Hayashi bravely dived at his feet to save from point-blank range and secure the Sendai win.

Later on in Hiroshima, Sanfrecce struggled to break down the Kashiwa defence for much of the first period and conceded an opener on the counter to the overlapping full-back Kwon Han-Jin right on half time.

Koji Morisaki equalised seven minutes after the restart, but Hiroshima were unable to turn their relative domination thereafter into a vital second goal, and were made to pay in the fourth minute of added time.

Jorge Wagner’s corner went over a crowd of players for defender Tatsuya Masushima to slot home a dramatic winner, as the champions still refuse to surrender their crown without a fight.

They move up to fourth, nine points behind the top two but level with Shimizu S-Pulse, who drew 1-1 at home to relegation-battling Vissel Kobe, and Nagoya Grampus, who won 3-1 at Sagan Tosu.

Urawa are now six points off the summit in third, having lost three of their last four.


Straddling the drop line, Omiya Ardija and Albirex Niigata could only draw 1-1 in their meeting at the NACK5 Stadium, allowing Gamba Osaka to move within a point of safety after their 3-2 win away to Kawasaki Frontale.

Bruno Lopes rolled the ball across the 18-yard line and in front of the Omiya back four for an unmarked Atomu Tanaka to strike Niigata into a deserved 1-0 lead after 38 minutes, but Takuya Aoki pierced the visiting defence via a 1-2 with Keigo Higashi to equalise for the Squirrels just before the break.

In Kawasaki, occasional Japan international Akihiro Ienaga was the hero for Gamba with two goals in a game they largely controlled but needed to score three to compensate for the continued failings of their defence.

Superb passing moves put Gamba ahead twice, through Ienaga and left-back Hiroki Fujiharu, only for Junpei Kusukami and Kengo Nakamura to be left unmarked in otherwise crowded penalty areas to head equalisers for Frontale.

But when Yuki Saneto could only half-clear Leandro’s cross, Ienaga smashed home the loose ball to take Gamba a point ahead of Niigata in 16th.

Winless in seven, Kobe are now just three points ahead of Gamba in 14th position, with Kashima Antlers as many clear of them in 13th place after Shinzo Koroki missed a penalty in their goalless draw with relegated Consadole Sapporo.

Elsewhere, Cerezo Osaka drew 1-1 at home to FC Tokyo.

- A week after securing an immediate return to the top flight, Ventforet Kofu made sure of their J2 championship with a 3-2 victory away to Avispa Fukuoka.
- Kyoto Sanga moved into the second automatic promotion spot thanks to a 3-1 win over FC Gifu, after Shonan Bellmare were held 1-1 at home to JEF United Chiba.
- With three matches remaining for most second division clubs, everyone down to Fagiano Okayama in tenth are theoretically in with a chance of automatic promotion. Tochigi SC in 11th could still make the playoffs.
- Machida Zelvia are now six points adrift at the bottom of J2 and could well become the first team ever to be relegated from the J. League, with associate members V-Varen Nagasaki still five points clear at the top of the third-tier JFL.

J1 results (matchday 29)
Vegalta Sendai 3-2 Urawa Reds
Yokohama F Marinos 4-0 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Vissel Kobe
Sagan Tosu 1-3 Nagoya Grampus
Consadole Sapporo 0-0 Kashima Antlers
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 FC Tokyo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol

J2 results (matchday 39)
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Kyoto Sanga 3-1 FC Gifu
Avispa Fukuoka 2-3 Ventforet Kofu
Roasso Kumamoto 0-1 Yokohama FC
Tokyo Verdy 4-1 Tochigi SC
Machida Zelvia 2-4 Ehime FC
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 JEF United Chiba
Matsumoto Yamaga 2-1 Mito HollyHock
Tokushima Vortis 3-0 Kataller Toyama
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Fagiano Okayama
Gainare Tottori 1-0 Oita Trinita

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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