Monday 02 July 2012

Sendai and Sanfrecce share spoils in sensational summit contest

Vegalta Sendai and Sanfrecce Hiroshima put on a show worthy of the best two sides in the country, drawing 2-2 in a thrilling top-of-the-table clash at the Yurtec Stadium on Saturday evening.

The home side and current league leaders began the game brightly and opened the scoring after 11 minutes. Collecting a forward pass from Makoto Kakuda, Wilson played a 1-2 with the returning Shingo Akamine to escape a crowd of four Hiroshima defenders and calmly fired the ball past Shusaku Nishikawa.

Sanfrecce were almost level with their first attempt of the game four minutes later, when J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato headed a Ryota Moriwaki cross onto the post with Takuto Hayashi beaten.

But Sato made no mistake in first half injury time when he pounced on another cross from the right flank, this time by Mihael Mikić, to volley home the equaliser with the outside of his left foot.

Hiroshima maintained their rhythm going into the second period, and even a dead leg for Sato became a blessing in disguise when his replacement, Koji Morisaki, immediately put the visitors in front on 65 minutes.

Yojiro Takahagi expertly collected a cross from Takahiro Aoyama on the edge of the penalty area to loft a side-footed volley over the Sendai defensive line, and into the path of the onside Morisaki to slide the ball inside the post.

However, the celebrations in the Morisaki household turned to despair with ten minutes remaining when Koji’s twin brother Kazuyuki slipped as he attempted to play the ball back to his goalkeeper. Wilson stole in to round Nishikawa, roll it into the empty net, and restore parity at 2-2.

A match that ebbed and flowed so nearly had a dramatic winner, when Ryang Yong-Gi’s free kick for Vegalta was cleared and Hwang Seok-Ho swept the ball forwards for an unmarked Hironori Ishikawa to break clear for Sanfrecce.

But the 24-year-old’s shot struck the crossbar, and both teams had to settle for a point that allows some of their rivals to close in.


One side storming up the table since elimination from the Asian Champions League is defending champions Kashiwa Reysol, who followed up a 1-0 win at FC Tokyo in their game in hand last Wednesday by thrashing Gamba Osaka 6-2 at a rainy Banpaku.

Masakatsu Sawa was the hero with a well-taken hat-trick, stunning the beleaguered hosts by slotting the ball through Yosuke Fujigaya’s legs then taking advantage of the goalkeeper’s hopelessly weak parry to put Reysol two up within seven minutes.

Masato Kudo made it three from a tight angle on 20 minutes, but after coming back triumphantly from two down to draw with Nagoya Grampus in midweek, Gamba set off on another recovery charge as goals from Yasuhito Endo and Akihiro Sato reduced the deficit to 2-3 at half-time.

However, the Osakans’ momentum was halted when Leandro Domingues languidly fired home a perfect spinning volley ten minutes after the restart. Further goals by Sawa and Junya Tanaka, both from Koki Mizuno crosses on the counter attack, completed Gamba’s worst home defeat since losing 7-1 to the same opposition back in May 1996.

The result, which sees Kashiwa move to within five points of the leaders in fourth, was a perfect send-off for right-back Hiroki Sakai, who made his final appearance for the club before flying out to join German side Hannover 96 on Sunday.

Joining Sakai on the same flight was Nuremburg-bound Hiroshi Kiyotake, who made his farewell appearance for Cerezo Osaka in a 1-1 home draw with Urawa Reds.

Jubilo Iwata moved up to third, ahead of both Kashiwa and Urawa on goal difference, with a convincing 3-1 victory over FC Tokyo, but Kawasaki Frontale missed a great opportunity to close on the top two as they fell down to sixth after a 1-0 home loss to Vissel Kobe.

Ken Tokura fired home a spectacular late winner from 30 yards and celebrated by mimicking the muscle-flexing of Mario Balotelli during Italy’s Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany.

Elsewhere, Nagoya could only draw 1-1 at Yokohama F Marinos to stay seven points off the summit in seventh position, but Sagan Tosu are back in the top half after Kota Mizunuma’s 95th-minute winner against the unfortunate Consadole Sapporo.

Omiya Ardija moved six points clear of danger with a similarly late 1-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse – Daigo Watanabe their hero – while Albirex Niigata picked up a creditable point at home to Kashima Antlers.

- Takashi Sekizuka will name his Japan squad of 18 to take to the Olympic Games in London later on Monday.
- Cerezo Osaka and Vegalta Sendai each enjoyed big wins on Wednesday to seal their places in the quarter-finals of the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup alongside Shimizu S-Pulse, Kashima Antlers, and the four Champions League representatives.
- Tokyo Verdy moved two points clear at the head of J2 after a 2-0 win over Mito HollyHock, with Shonan Bellmare only able to draw 1-1 with Matsumoto Yamaga.

J1 results (matchday 16)
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Omiya Ardija 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Kashima Antlers
Jubilo Iwata 3-1 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka 2-6 Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Urawa Reds
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Consadole Sapporo

J1 results (matchday 9 – Wednesday 27 June)
FC Tokyo 0-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Nagoya Grampus

J2 results (matchday 22)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Montedio Yamagata
Tokyo Verdy 2-0 Mito HollyHock
Machida Zelvia 0-4 Yokohama FC
Ventforet Kofu 0-0 FC Gifu
Gainare Tottori 1-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 Ehime FC
Oita Trinita 1-1 Kataller Toyama
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Tokushima Vortis 0-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Kyoto Sanga 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Roasso Kumamoto 1-0 JEF United Chiba

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup results
Group A

Vegalta Sendai 4-0 Jubilo Iwata
Urawa Reds 3-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Cerezo Osaka 5-0 Sagan Tosu
Final standings: CEREZO OSAKA 12, VEGALTA SENDAI 12, Jubilo Iwata 12, Urawa Reds 9, Sagan Tosu 9, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4, Kawasaki Frontale 4

Group B
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Albirex Niigata 4-3 Omiya Ardija
Vissel Kobe 3-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Final standings: SHIMIZU S-PULSE 15, KASHIMA ANTLERS 15, Albirex Niigata 10, Yokohama F Marinos 5, Omiya Ardija 5, Consadole Sapporo 5, Vissel Kobe 4

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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.


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.

- 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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Monday 18 June 2012

Gamba reach out to former hero after more late misery

Gamba Osaka have called upon the services of their former striker Leandro to save them from the increasingly perilous clutches of a relegation battle at the foot of the J1 table.

The 27-year-old Brazilian will be eligible to play again for his former club from 20 July after signing a one-year loan deal from Qatari side Al-Sadd – whom he joined in a sudden €7 million transfer after scoring 22 goals in 29 appearances during a six-month initial stint at Banpaku back in 2009.

The news presents a rare cause for optimism among the Gamba faithful, who witnessed their side resume the J. League season as they had left off before the three-week international break – surrendering a lead and succumbing at home to a late stoppage-time winner, this time at the hands of high-flying Urawa Reds.

Masanobu Matsunami’s side actually began the game in positive fashion, with Paulinho going close early on with a long-range shot that struck the top of the Urawa crossbar. The Brazilian had a hand in the opening goal on 15 minutes when his left-footed corner found the head of strike partner Akihiro Sato to divert the ball beyond Nobuhiro Kato.

But Reds were level on the half hour mark when Yosuke Kashiwagi’s through ball sent Genki Haraguchi in behind the hosts’ defence to slot coolly past Atsushi Kimura.

Amidst torrential rain, Gamba struggled to maintain their rhythm and found themselves pushed back as the second half progressed. The killer goal came with 92 minutes on the clock, as Kashiwagi sent a superb pass with the outside of his left foot to the overlapping Tsukasa Umesaki, who turned inside Shigeru Yokotani and slotted the ball into the opposite corner.

The defeat sees the 2005 Japanese champions fall to second from bottom, six points adrift of safety, as Albirex Niigata enjoyed a surprise 1-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse in their first match under the charge of new manager Masaaki Yanagishita.


Vegalta Sendai eased back into league action with a comfortable 4-1 home win over hapless Consadole Sapporo, with veteran former Japan forward Atsushi Yanagisawa finally netting his first and second home goals for the club either side of half time.

But their challenge to win a first ever title may be growing in difficulty after Kashiwa Reysol and Nagoya Grampus – now both free to concentrate on domestic action after elimination from the Asian Champions League – notched four goals apiece en route to entertaining away victories at Omiya Ardija and Kashima Antlers, respectively.

A first-time, looping volley from Leandro Domingues opened the floodgates for Reysol to score all of their goals within a 25-minute spell, having initially gone behind to a fine individual effort from Carlinhos. Grampus, meanwhile, had Kensuke Nagai to thank for his spectacular curling winner four minutes from time.

The two previous J. League winners are ten points behind Sendai, each with a game in hand.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima remain second after their impressive 4-1 victory away to Cerezo Osaka, with Urawa in third on level points with Kawasaki Frontale, who inflicted a first ever J1 home loss upon Sagan Tosu.

A hat-trick from 19-year-old Keijiro Ogawa secured a 3-1 win for Vissel Kobe – their first under new boss Akira Nishino – away to Jubilo Iwata, while a composed turn and shot from Shingo Hyodo was enough for Yokohama F Marinos to extend their unbeaten run to seven with a 1-0 victory over FC Tokyo.

- Tokyo Verdy went top of the J2 table after beating previous leaders JEF United Chiba 2-1.
- Bundesliga side Hannover 96 confirmed the long-anticipated transfer of Japan right-back Hiroki Sakai from Kashiwa Reysol last Wednesday. The 22-year-old will move to Germany after his current club’s clash with Nagoya Grampus on 7 July.

J1 results (matchday 14)
Vegalta Sendai 4-1 Consadole Sapporo
Kashima Antlers 2-3 Nagoya Grampus
Omiya Ardija 2-4 Kashiwa Reysol
Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 FC Tokyo
Albirex Niigata 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata 1-3 Vissel Kobe
Gamba Osaka 1-2 Urawa Reds
Cerezo Osaka 1-4 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Sagan Tosu 0-1 Kawasaki Frontale

J2 results (matchday 20)
Tochigi SC 3-4 Yokohama FC
Tokyo Verdy 2-1 JEF United Chiba
Machida Zelvia 0-0 Montedio Yamagata
Ventforet Kofu 4-1 Kataller Toyama
Gainare Tottori 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Avispa Fukuoka 0-0 FC Gifu
Oita Trinita 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Shonan Bellmare 2-0 Fagiano Okayama
Tokushima Vortis 3-0 Ehime FC
Kyoto Sanga 0-1 Thespa Kusatsu
Roasso Kumamoto 2-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu

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Wednesday 13 June 2012

Belter in Brisbane as Japan draw with Australia

Japan maintained their superiority at the head of Group B in the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup with a pulsating 1-1 draw away to Australia at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Tuesday evening.

After a goalless first half, the Samurai Blue seized the initiative either side of a red card for Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan to open the scoring through Yuzo Kurihara on 65 minutes. However, the home side hit back from the spot just five minutes later – Luke Wilkshire converting after Atsuto Uchida was penalised – and Japan’s chances of finding a winner were effectively ended when Kurihara himself was dismissed late on.

Alberto Zaccheroni was forced into making a single change from the side that had collected nine goals with no reply in their previous home games against Oman and Jordan, with Kurihara slotting into central defence in place of the injured Maya Yoshida. Australia had endured a gruelling and ultimately disappointing scoreless draw in Oman last Friday, and brought in Tim Cahill for Harry Kewell up front.

The hosts quickly took control of the game with a high-intensity, direct style of football that continually pushed the Japanese defence deep into its own half. A long ball from Sasa Ognenovski sent Cahill through after five minutes, but Eiji Kawashima did well to save both his initial effort and the follow-up shot from Wilkshire.

Japan created a few half-chances from set pieces but remained under pressure for much of the opening half hour. Alex Brosque went closest to opening the scoring for Australia after Lucas Neill had lobbed the ball over Kawashima, but the Shimizu S-Pulse forward was denied on the goalline by Uchida’s block.

Zaccheroni’s men were able to stem the tide thereafter by adopting a higher line and pressing more boldly as a team. This allowed them to exploit their numerical advantage in midfield and begin working the flanks. Yuto Nagatomo perhaps ought to have done better when his low ball across the six-yard box failed to find a blue shirt, but Japan were at least looking more composed and started the second period as the better team.

Their hopes were given a significant boost ten minutes after the restart when Milligan was shown an extremely harsh second yellow card for a seemingly accidental clash with Uchida.

Japan took the lead soon afterwards from a short corner routine – Keisuke Honda playing a 1-2 with Makoto Hasebe and skilfully jinking along the by-line to play the ball low beyond Mark Schwarzer and into the path of the unmarked Kurihara at the far post.

To their real credit, Australia immediately came back with great energy, committing players forward to win a corner from which they were confusingly awarded a penalty when Uchida was adjudged to have impeded the unprotesting Brosque. Wilkshire calmly fired the ball into the centre of the goal as Kawashima dived low to his left.

The bizarre circumstances surrounding the equaliser seemed to unsettle Japan, and the ten men could have taken the lead following another corner soon afterwards when Ognenovski’s shot struck the crossbar.

The visitors gradually rediscovered their rhythm, but were unable to create any real opportunities to force their way back in front and lost their man advantage in the last minute of the 90 when Kurihara was shown his second yellow for an innocuous collision with Brosque.

An unconventional performance from Saudi referee Khalil Al-Ghamdi was completed when Japan were awarded a free kick deep into added time, only for the final whistle to be blown as soon as the defensive wall had been assembled.


Speaking after the game, Zaccheroni appeared satisfied with the point in what was, on paper, the most difficult fixture Japan should face throughout the qualifying process.

“This was a game that Australia felt they needed to win, and they showed their physical strength, experience, and canniness throughout,” said the Italian. “But Japan did well to deal with this. We had a difficult period at the beginning of the game, but we overcame it to control the proceedings ourselves.

“It took a penalty for us to concede our first goal of this round, but nonetheless, I think our players fought very well in what was difficult away territory.”

Japan now stand atop Group B with seven points from three matches. Their next fixture is on 11 September at home to Iraq, who are second on just two points, ahead of Australia on goals scored, with one game in hand.

South Korea look to be in control of Group A after following up last Friday’s 4-1 win in Qatar with a 3-0 home victory over Lebanon; Kim Bo-Kyung of Cerezo Osaka netting twice.

World Cup qualifying results – Asia, final round
Group A

(3 June)
Uzbekistan 0-1 Iran
Lebanon 0-1 Qatar

(8 June)
Lebanon 1-1 Uzbekistan
Qatar 1-4 South Korea

(12 June)
South Korea 3-0 Lebanon
Iran 0-0 Qatar

Group B
(3 June)
Japan 3-0 Oman
Jordan 1-1 Iraq

(8 June)
Japan 6-0 Jordan
Oman 0-0 Australia

(12 June)
Australia 1-1 Japan
Iraq 0-0 Oman

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Friday 08 June 2012

Honda hits hat-trick as Japan trounce Jordan in World Cup qualifiers

Japan have got off to the perfect start to the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, following up Sunday’s easy 3-0 win over Oman in Saitama by thrashing Jordan 6-0 at the same venue on Friday evening.

Notorious in the past for struggling to break down defensive, supposedly weaker opposition, Alberto Zaccheroni’s ever-improving side were immediately onto the front foot against Oman, taking the lead through Keisuke Honda’s volley on ten minutes before quick-fire strikes early in the second half from Ryoichi Maeda and Shinji Okazaki.

It was a similar story against an initially more threatening-looking Jordan, as Maeda and Honda put the home side two up inside 21 minutes before Abdallah Deeb was sent off for two moments of overzealous aggression in quick succession. Honda struck again on the half-hour mark before Shinji Kagawa added a fourth to make the result an absolute formality before half time.

Honda completed a well-deserved hat-trick from the spot shortly after the restart, and Yuzo Kurihara completed the scoring late on.

After the confident opening performance five days previously, Zaccheroni opted to stick with his first-choice line-up for the second of this month’s three back-to-back qualifiers, meaning that new Manchester United signing Kagawa began on the left with Honda behind Maeda in the centre.

Japan began the game at a high tempo, but were immediately shown a harder time in developing their passing moves into the final third by the determined physical play of the Jordan defence. Okazaki had a speculative overhead kick saved easily by Amer Sabbah, who then did well to get down to a low, first-time effort from Honda.

But the Samurai Blue did earn a succession of corners for their efforts, and this bore fruit on 18 minutes when Honda’s high cross found Maeda, who rose above Saeed Morjan to force the ball home off his shoulder with Sabbah in no-man’s land.

Almost immediately afterwards, another Japan corner was half-cleared to Yasuhito Endo, who sent an absolutely glorious side-footed pass back through the visitors’ defence and perfectly into the path of Honda to finish confidently.

Jordan’s plan to frustrate their more illustrious opponents as they had at last year’s Asian Cup in Qatar had been quickly voided, and their own frustrations were apparent when Deeb was dismissed with more than an hour remaining. The forward unnecessarily tripped Maeda to earn a booking, before seeing red for catching Makoto Hasebe with his arm moments later.

Smelling blood, Japan quickly made it three. On the occasion of his 117th cap, second only to Masami Ihara on 122, Endo played another fantastic ‘quarterback’ pass to Okazaki, whose shot from the right was blocked by Basem Fat'hi only to roll across goal for Honda to net at the far post.

Kagawa completed the first half scoring as Japan continued to overwhelm their opponents in attack, curling the ball home between the post and the scrambling Khalil Bani Attiah from the edge of the penalty area.

Jordan looked to hit back at the start of the second period, going close to scoring when Odai Al-Saify’s attempt flew narrowly over. However, their momentum was quickly quelled when Japan broke down the other end and Maeda’s tricky footwork drew a foul and spot kick from Attiah. Honda converted with typical composure to complete his hat-trick.

With the most difficult fixture of the group, away to Australia in Brisbane, coming up on Tuesday, Japan could afford to drop the pace a little thereafter. Honda was withdrawn for Kengo Nakamura to a rapturous ovation, and the Kawasaki Frontale man was involved in the sixth and final strike at a short corner routine with Yuto Nagatomo, who crossed for Kurihara to head his first ever international goal.

The only black note on a most comfortable evening was an injury to defender Maya Yoshida, who had to be replaced by Kurihara shortly before the interval.


Captain Hasebe was unsurprisingly satisfied with the result, commenting to Japanese television at full time:

“Like the previous game, we managed to take the lead at a good time and from then on we could control the proceedings... we have scored a lot of goals over these past two games, but while it may not stand out quite so much the defence has performed very well too. We are in very good condition throughout the side at the moment.”

Hat-trick hero Honda added:

“My three goals came thanks to the good work of my teammates, including for the penalty, so I cannot take too much credit. I’m playing well at the moment, but the most important thing is that the team is playing well too... these two games have gone exactly as we had planned, and we now have to continue to meet everyone’s expectations when we head to Australia.”

World Cup qualifying results
Japan 3
-0 Oman
Japan 5-0 Jordan

posted by Ben Mabley at 21:34 | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Minutecast | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Friday 01 June 2012

Minutecast mid-season special with Cesare Polenghi and Sean Carroll

This Wednesday, Ben Mabley of Football Japan was joined in Tokyo by Sean Carroll of the Daily Yomiuri and Cesare Polenghi, Asian Managing Editor for, to discuss all manner of things ranging from Shinji Kagawa’s imminent transfer, to the surprise names at the top of the J. League and crisis at Gamba Osaka.

Twitter links:
Cesare Polenghi: @CesarePolenghi
Sean Carroll: @seankyaroru
Ben Mabley: @BenMabley

posted by Ben Mabley at 18:35 | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Minutecast | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Monday 28 May 2012

Tosu hit back to put Gamba in real danger of relegation

2008 Asian champions Gamba Osaka have been cast fully six points adrift of safety ahead of the J. League’s three-week break for the World Cup qualifiers, after Masanobu Matsunami’s men surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at home to newly-promoted Sagan Tosu on Friday night.

The hosts at Banpaku did get off to the perfect start when, in just the third minute, Paulinho successfully closed down Ryuhei Niwa and sent in a cross for Takahiro Futagawa to open the scoring on his return to the starting XI after five games on the sidelines.

Gamba continued to dominate and created a succession of good chances, Yasuyuki Konno going closest when his header struck the right-hand goalpost. But having been frustrated with the 1-0 half-time scoreline, they finally extended their advantage midway through the second period when Akihiro Sato extended a toe to reach Yasuhito Endo’s cross.

However, as the home fans continued to celebrate what looked like an assured victory, Tosu hit back right from the restart, when Yohei Toyoda managed to flick a long throw from Naoyuki Fujita inside the far post with the back of his head.

Instantly, the momentum of the game flipped completely, and Gamba’s fragile confidence subsided further when Fujita curled the ball home for the equaliser and his own first ever J1 goal with four minutes left on the clock.

The hosts sought in vain for a winner but were again caught on the breakaway, and Fujita slotted calmly past Atsushi Kimura to steal all three points for Sagan with the final kick of the game.

Nagoya Grampus are another big club with a disappointing league position to ponder over the break after they succumbed to a third successive home defeat, losing 1-0 to Gamba’s city rivals Cerezo Osaka.

Brazilian forward Kempes netted the only goal of the game early in the second period following a fine solo run from Kim Bo-Kyung, and a below-par Nagoya were unable to hit back despite Cerezo forward Ryuji Bando seeing red with still half an hour remaining.

The result lifts Cerezo above Grampus on goal difference with 17 points, alongside defending champions Kashiwa Reysol who beat Albirex Niigata 2-0 on Saturday. Niigata, like Gamba, remain stuck on just nine.


At the top, Vegalta Sendai’s lead is down to two points after they came out second best in a five-goal thriller away to Kawasaki Frontale.

The visitors fought back from Yu Kobayashi’s opener to lead 2-1 through sensational strikes from Shingo Tomita and Wilson, but Kyohei Noborizato levelled things up again before Takuro Yajima’s header won it for Kawasaki in the final minute.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima held onto second with a straightforward 3-1 victory away to bottom club Consadole Sapporo, while Jubilo Iwata leapfrogged local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse into third thanks to a 4-0 drubbing of Omiya Ardija. S-Pulse were held to a goalless draw at home to Yokohama F Marinos.

Akira Nishino’s first game in charge of Vissel Kobe did not quite go according to the script, as his side fell two down at home to Kashima Antlers and missed a number of chances before ultimately losing 2-1.

FC Tokyo drew 1-1 with Urawa Reds in Saturday’s late game.

- Japan warmed up for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 friendly win over Azerbaijan in Shizuoka last Wednesday. Shinji Kagawa gave the Samurai Blue the lead shortly before half time, before an Agil Nabiyev own goal in the second period.
- Alberto Zaccheroni will now lead his side into competitive battle with home games in Saitama against Oman on Sunday 3 June and Jordan on Friday 8 June, before heading to Australia to face the Socceroos on Wednesday 12 June.

J1 results (matchday 13)
Gamba Osaka 2-3 Sagan Tosu
Nagoya Grampus 0-1 Cerezo Osaka
Consadole Sapporo 1-3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 Vegalta Sendai
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Jubilo Iwata 4-0 Omiya Ardija
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Kashiwa Reysol 2-0 Albirex Niigata
FC Tokyo 1-1 Urawa Reds

J2 results (matchday 16)
Kyoto Sanga 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Thespa Kusatsu 0-0 Matsumoto Yamaga
Gainare Tottori 2-5 Yokohama FC
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Fagiano Okayama
Oita Trinita 0-2 JEF United Chiba
Tochigi SC 3-2 Tokyo Verdy
Machida Zelvia 0-0 Mito HollyHock
Shonan Bellmare 0-0 Tokushima Vortis
Roasso Kumamoto 2-1 Montedio Yamagata
FC Gifu 0-3 Ventforet Kofu
Ehime FC 0-1 Kataller Toyama

International friendly
Japan 2
-0 Azerbaijan

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Monday 21 May 2012

Kurosaki quits after Iwata hit Niigata for six; Sapporo thrashed by seven-up Kashima

Hisashi Kurosaki has resigned as manager of Albirex Niigata in the wake of a 6-1 home drubbing at the hands of Jubilo Iwata which left his team five points adrift of safety.

The visitors raced into an early two-goal lead thanks to close range strikes from Cho Byung-Kuk and Ryoichi Maeda, before a second yellow card for Albirex defender Kim Jin-Su just before half time dealt a fatal blow to any hopes of avoiding a seventh league defeat of the campaign.

Jamaican-born Musashi Shingo was introduced for his debut at the start of the second half and immediately made an impact with series of dazzling solo runs, winning the free kick from which Seiya Fujita pulled one back via the head of an opposing defender.

But by that point, Iwata had already added a third through Yuki Kobayashi, and they continued on in relentless fashion to storm away with further goals from Takuya Matsuura, Maeda, and Hiroki Yamada in the final quarter of the match.

There was an even worse humiliation in store for bottom side Consadole Sapporo, as they went down 7-0 to a Kashima Antlers outfit whose season continues to swing between the sublime and the ridiculous.

Without a goal in three league matches prior to Saturday, Jorginho’s men had two in the opening quarter of an hour after a move brilliantly started and finished by central defender Daiki Iwamasa was followed by a penalty from Yuya Osako.

Sapporo thought that Ryuji Kawai had pulled one back only for the officials to rule that the ball had not crossed the line, and their hopes quickly faded further when Japan under-23 captain Kazuya Yamamura netted his first J. League goal for Kashima shortly before the interval.

Antlers were in rampant mood throughout the second period with four further players finding the scoresheet – Shinzo Koroki, Masashi Motoyama, Juninho, and Yasushi Endo.

Gamba Osaka complete the bottom three after they could only move level on points with Niigata, albeit with one game in hand, following a scoreless draw away to Yokohama F. Marinos.

Yuji Nakazawa looked to have unwittingly bundled the visitors into the lead only for his own goal to be disallowed for a push by his namesake, Gamba defender Sota. Marinos then had the ideal opportunity to seal a fifth straight league win when Manabu Saito was clipped by Daiki Niwa, only for former Japan star Shunsuke Nakamura to strike the crossbar with the resulting penalty kick.

Champions Kashiwa Reysol pulled level with Cerezo Osaka, five points clear of the drop zone, as two assists from Hiroki Sakai laid on a 2-1 away win at the Nagai Stadium.


Despite the slight wobble that had seen them pick up just two points from their previous three matches, Vegalta Sendai laid down another marker of their championship credentials by stretching their lead back out to five with a 4-0 rout of Nagoya Grampus.

In another decisively efficient performance, Sendai took the lead on 38 minutes through a tight-angled finish from Ryang Yong-Gi, who then sent in a corner for Shingo Akamine to head in via the unfortunate Takahiro Masukawa right on half time.

Grampus sent Marcus Tulio Tanaka up front as they looked to hit back in the second half, but when his 86th-minute attempt was superbly cleared off the line by Jiro Kamata, Vegalta broke for Wilson to coolly seal the win seconds thereafter. Naoki Sugai added a fourth in added time.

The chasing pack has become more condensed than ever after Yuki Abe’s solitary goal gave Urawa Reds a 1-0 win over 10-man Shimizu S-Pulse, who fall to third on goal difference. Sanfrecce Hiroshima are up to second after a thrilling late goal rush saw them beat Vissel Kobe 3-2.

Kawasaki Frontale climb to seventh thanks to a 2-0 victory at Omiya Ardija, while a hat-trick from substitute Kazuma Watanabe in the final quarter of an hour allowed FC Tokyo to recover from two down and dramatically edge Sagan Tosu 3-2.

- Impressive wins in midweek for Kashiwa Reysol and Nagoya Grampus, away at Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and at home to Central Coast Mariners respectively, saw them clinch their places alongside FC Tokyo in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League.
- Cerezo Osaka have announced that Japan attacking midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake will leave the club for Bundesliga side 1.FC Nürnberg on 1 July.

J1 results (matchday 12)
Yokohama F Marinos 0-0 Gamba Osaka
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 1-6 Jubilo Iwata
Urawa Reds 1-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Omiya Ardija 0-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 7-0 Consadole Sapporo
Vegalta Sendai 4-0 Nagoya Grampus
Cerezo Osaka 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol
FC Tokyo 3-2 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 15)
Montedio Yamagata 2-1 FC Gifu
Mito HollyHock 0-2 Ehime FC
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-2 Yokohama FC
Kataller Toyama 0-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Tokushima Vortis 3-0 Gainare Tottori
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-5 Tokyo Verdy
Ventforet Kofu 2-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Tochigi SC 1-1 Shonan Bellmare
JEF United Chiba 4-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Fagiano Okayama 1-2 Kyoto Sanga
Oita Trinita 2-1 Machida Zelvia

AFC Champions League group stage results (East Asia, matchday 6)
Group E
Gamba Osaka (JPN) 0-2 Adelaide United (AUS)
Bunyodkor (UZB) 1-0 Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Final standings: ADELAIDE UNITED 13, BUNYODKOR 10, Pohang Steelers 9, Gamba Osaka 3

Group F
Brisbane Roar (AUS) 1-1 Beijing Guoan (CHN)
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) 1-0 FC Tokyo (JPN)
Final standings: ULSAN HYUNDAI 14, FC TOKYO 11, Brisbane Roar 3, Beijing Guoan 3

Group G
Nagoya Grampus (JPN) 3-0 Central Coast Mariners (AUS)
Tianjin Teda (CHN) 0-3 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR)
Final standings: SEONGNAM ILHWA CHUNMA 10, NAGOYA GRAMPUS 10, Central Coast Mariners 6, Tianjin Teda 3

Group H
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) 0-2 Kashiwa Reysol (JPN)
Buriram United (THA) 1-2 Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
Final standings: GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE 10, KASHIWA REYSOL 10, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 9, Buriram United 6

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup group stage results (matchday 4)
Group A
Kawasaki Frontale 0-3 Urawa Reds
Cerezo Osaka 2-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Sagan Tosu 3-2 Jubilo Iwata

Group B
Omiya Ardija 1-1 Consadole Sapporo
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Yokohama F Marinos 3-2 Kashima Antlers

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Monday 14 May 2012

Aoyama goes the whole 69 yards but Marinos hit back to thwart Sanfrecce

Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama took aim from fully 69 yards to score one of the most astonishing goals in J. League history on Saturday afternoon.

Six minutes into his side’s home match with Yokohama F. Marinos, the 26-year-old spotted the opposing goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura standing on the edge of his penalty area and launched an incredible, unstoppable shot from well inside his own half – behind even the centre circle.

The dramatic opening was as good as it got for Hiroshima, however, as Marinos fought back with three goals of their own to seal a fourth successive league victory. Marquinhos levelled the scores on his first start since returning to the club where he first spent a season back in 2003, while Manabu Saito and Seitaro Tomisawa both netted late in the second half.

Having failed to muster a single win in their first seven matches, the quick resurgence in form has now taken Yasuhiro Higuchi’s side into the top half of the table.

Jubilo Iwata were the weekend’s big movers, with a 3-0 defeat of struggling Kashima Antlers catapulting them up to fourth in the table after all six of the sides that had begun proceedings ahead of the Shizuoka club failed to take three points.

Ryoichi Maeda headed Iwata into a tenth minute lead, before Takuya Matsuura and the impressive Hiroki Yamada added gloss to the scoreline with two well-taken strikes in the final ten minutes.

Second-placed Shimizu S-Pulse needed a dramatic equaliser from Alex Brosque with the final kick of the game to rescue a point at home to Cerezo Osaka, who had led through Yoichiro Kakitani’s first ever J1 goal, but leaders Vegalta Sendai were unable to take advantage as they were also forced to come from behind to draw 1-1 at the other Osaka club, Gamba.

A low, curling shot from Shu Kurata looked set to secure a much-needed three points for the crisis-ridden 2005 champions, but Ryang Yong-Gi and Shingo Akamine combined on their respective returns from injury for the latter to head home an equaliser on 78 minutes.


Elsewhere, title holders Kashiwa Reysol moved clear of the relegation zone with a welcome 2-0 victory away to Kawasaki Frontale. Masato Kudo scrambled the visitors in front midway through the second half, before Jorge Wagner sealed the points with his second in two games late into stoppage time.

Nagoya Grampus are up to eighth after putting their recent losing run to an end with a 1-0 win at Vissel Kobe thanks to a single Keiji Tamada strike shortly before half time. FC Tokyo rise to sixth after a first-minute goal from Yohei Kajiyama proved enough to edge fellow newly-promoted side Consadole Sapporo by the same scoreline.

Urawa Reds could only draw 1-1 at home to third-from-bottom Albirex Niigata despite a sixth league goal of the season for Marcio Richardes, while a last-minute own goal by the unfortunate Yu Hasegawa of Omiya Ardija preserved Sagan Tosu’s unbeaten home record.

The middle order remains typically congested, with just five points separating Sanfrecce in third from Cerezo in 14th.

- It is ‘as you were’ at the top of J2 as both Montedio Yamagata and Shonan Bellmare were held to 1-1 draws; away to Avispa Fukuoka and at home to Oita Trinita, respectively.
- With Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the stands, Shinji Kagawa scored after just three minutes to set Borussia Dortmund on their way to a German domestic double and a 5-2 thrashing of Bayern Munich in the final of the DFB-Pokal.
- Kashiwa and Japan U-23 right-back Hiroki Sakai is set to become the next Japanese representative in the Bundesliga, with a move to Hannover 96 now close to completion.

J1 results (matchday 11)
Consadole Sapporo 0-1 FC Tokyo
Jubilo Iwata 3-0 Kashima Antlers
Sagan Tosu 1-1 Omiya Ardija
Kawasaki Frontale 0-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-3 Yokohama F Marinos
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Cerezo Osaka
Urawa Reds 1-1 Albirex Niigata
Vissel Kobe 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Vegalta Sendai

J2 results (matchday 14)
Ehime FC 2-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Thespa Kusatsu 1-2 Tochigi SC
Tokyo Verdy 0-1 Fagiano Okayama
Machida Zelvia 1-6 JEF United Chiba
Yokohama FC 3-0 Kataller Toyama
Avispa Fukuoka 1-1 Montedio Yamagata
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Oita Trinita
Kyoto Sanga 2-1 Tokushima Vortis
Gainare Tottori 2-1 Mito HollyHock
Roasso Kumamoto 0-0 Ventforet Kofu
FC Gifu 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga

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Tuesday 08 May 2012

Omae God! Hail Genki as S-Pulse reel in Sendai

Shimizu S-Pulse underlined their early championship credentials by inflicting a first league defeat of the season upon J. League leaders Vegalta Sendai at the Yurtec Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

With somewhat temperamental weather sweeping the country on the final day of the Golden Week holiday, a heavy hailstorm caused the top-of-the-table clash to be halted for around 40 minutes midway through the first half.

Following the resumption of play, it was the visitors who found their rhythm and opened the scoring five minutes before the scheduled interval when Toshiyuki Takagi crossed for Genki Omae to head past Sendai goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.

Shimizu’s hopes of retaining their advantage took a blow midway through the second period when Dutch defender Calvin Jong-a-Pin was dismissed for two bookable offences. But thanks partly to a fine performance between the posts by Akihiro Hayashi, who joined in pre-season from Belgian third-tier side Charleroi-Marchienne, Afshin Ghotbi’s men held on to close the gap at the summit to just two points.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima are two points further back in third after a crazy 5-2 victory away to the struggling title holders, Kashiwa Reysol.

J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato struck his eighth and ninth goals of the season to push the away side into a 2-0 lead early in the second half, but a terrific turn and shot from Junya Tanaka inspired a Kashiwa recovery which brought parity when Jorge Wagner netted his first of the campaign with 13 minutes remaining.

However, a Mihael Mikić cross found Yojiro Takahagi to tap Hiroshima back in front, and as Reysol desperately sought a second equaliser, Naoki Ishihara took advantage with a stoppage time double to give the final scoreline a somewhat cruel gloss. The champions have only eight points from nine games and are separated from the relegation zone on goals scored.


Kawasaki Frontale moved up to sixth position with their second straight victory under new manager Yahiro Kazama, edging Nagoya Grampus by the odd goal in five at the Toyota Stadium.

Takuro Yajima was the hero with two goals and an assist to give Kawasaki a 3-1 lead in a first half that Nagoya boss Dragan Stojković described as “catastrophic”. A major reshuffle at the interval allowed the home side to control the second period, but a single goal in reply from Jungo Fujimoto proved insufficient to prevent first back-to-back defeats since October 2009.

Urawa Reds are fourth after a 2-2 draw at seventh-placed Jubilo Iwata, for whom South Korean U-23 international and former Watford youth player Baek Sung-Dong netted his first ever J. League goals, while the ever-impressive new boys Sagan Tosu are fifth after a goalless draw at Kashima Antlers.

Fortunes remain quite the opposite for Consadole Sapporo, who fell victim to a third consecutive win for the resurgent Yokohama F Marinos to remain rooted to the foot of the table on four points. Gamba Osaka were punished for their profligacy in front of goal with a 1-0 defeat at Omiya Ardija to stay second from bottom.

Elsewhere, Vissel Kobe won 2-1 away to Kansai rivals Cerezo Osaka to make it a maximum six points in two matches under caretaker manager Ryo Adachi, while FC Tokyo were 2-0 victors at Albirex Niigata.

- Vissel Kobe are reportedly set to appoint Akira Nishino, who led Gamba Osaka to six major domestic and Asian honours plus eight top three finishes in the past ten seasons, as their new full-time manager on a contract that will take him up to the end of 2014.
- Shinji Kagawa and Gotoku Sakai both registered assists for their respective clubs on the final weekend of the German Bundesliga season. Kagawa is set to announce a decision on his future following this Saturday’s DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich.
- Montedio Yamagata beat Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 to leapfrog Shonan Bellmare, who were held 1-1 by Matsumoto Yamaga, to the head of the J2 table.

J1 results (matchday 10)
Vegalta Sendai 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Yokohama F Marinos 2-1 Consadole Sapporo
Cerezo Osaka 1-2 Vissel Kobe
Kashiwa Reysol 2-5 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Omiya Ardija 1-0 Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 2-2 Urawa Reds
Nagoya Grampus 2-3 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 0-0 Sagan Tosu
Albirex Niigata 0-2 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 13)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Avispa Fukuoka (match abandoned)
Ventforet Kofu 0-3 Kyoto Sanga
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Machida Zelvia
Tokushima Vortis 1-1 Roasso Kumamoto
Oita Trinita 3-0 Gainare Tottori
JEF United Chiba 1-0 Ehime FC
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-1 Shonan Bellmare
Fagiano Okayama 0-1 FC Gifu
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Mito HollyHock 0-2 Tokyo Verdy
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-2 Yokohama FC

AFC Champions League group stage results (East Asia, matchday 5)
Group E
Adelaide United (AUS) 0-0 Bunyodkor (UZB)
Pohang Steelers (KOR) 2-0 Gamba Osaka (JPN)

Group F
FC Tokyo (JPN) 4-2 Brisbane Roar (AUS)
Beijing Guoan (CHN) 2-3 Ulsan Hyundai (KOR)

Group G
Central Coast Mariners (AUS) 5-1 Tianjin Teda (CHN)
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (KOR) 1-1 Nagoya Grampus (JPN)

Group H
Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 1-0 Buriram United (THA)
Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 1-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)

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