In a tight, tactically interesting affair light on entertainment, Nagoya Grampus limited their own attacking instincts and shackled Vegalta Sendai to record their first goalless draw of the 2012 campaign at the Toyota Stadium, and prevented Makoto Teguramori’s men from scoring for only the third time this season.
(A fan in the Yurtec Stadium captures Ryang Yong-Gi’s 38th minute opener for Vegalta Sendai, giving the home side the platform to run out 4-0 winners and extend their lead at the top of J.League Division 1 to five points)
Vegalta Sendai ruthlessly exploited Nagoya Grampus’ lack of composure in front of goal and defensive frailities to run out 4-0 winners at the Yurtec Stadium, in a match the visitors could quite easily have been leading at half-time. Grampus Manager Dragan Stojković will bemoan his side’s inability to convert their domination of possession, territory and chances, both Taishi Taguchi and Josh Kennedy having opportunities to properly reflect their side’s superiority, while poor decision-making in midfield prevented the guests from further benefitting from their authoritative display in the first period.
Although Vegalta had provided a warning of their ability to counter-attack with Sekiguchi’s astonishing miss from two yards, the opening goal seven minutes before the interval was unexpected and almost entirely against the run of play. Shingo Akamine, stationed on the left, clipped a pass for Sekiguchi to run on to, which deflected off Hayuma Tanaka. The right-back was the clear favourite to pick up the loose ball, but inattentive and careless in not noticing the Vegalta left-winger behind him, Sekiguchi’s acceleration allowed him to burst clear. Driving into the penalty area, his low cross was blocked away by Seigo Narazaki, but fell kindly to Ryang Yong-Gi to drive low into the goal at the near post. Narazaki, who had done so well to prevent Sekiguchi from finding a teammate inside the penalty area, had recovered his position and may consider himself at fault for allowing the North Korean international to beat him on his right-hand side so easily.
Having taken the advantage and fortunate not to be going into the interval behind, Vegalta benefitted from a dreadful Takahiro Masukawa error on the stroke of half-time to double their lead, dealing a significant blow to any possibility of a Grampus fightback in the second period. Five minutes had been added on owing to a serious injury to Danilson and the consequent enforced substitution, and Grampus were required to defend two corners in quick succession. Ryang’s second delivery found a deep-lying Shingo Akamine, and aided by some very poor positioning on the part of Kensuke Nagai, the forward headed back across goal. Facing his own net, Masukawa attempted to clear behind for a further corner, but merely succeeded in diverting the ball via his thigh over the head of Jungo Fujimoto on the goal-line.
As fortunate Vegalta had been to be ahead at the break, defending more compactly and better able to withstand any Grampus attempts to bring themselves into the match, they proved devastating on the counter-attack for a third goal which put the result beyond any doubt. Grampus centre-half Tulio Tanaka, taking up a familiar advanced role in search of gaining a foothold in the match, strode down the left-wing before cutting past Makoto Kakuda on the edge of the penalty area. His right-footed shot was through the legs of Takuto Hayashi, but a superb clearance on the goal line from Jiro Kamata led to Yoshiaki Ota receiving the ball on the right just inside the Grampus half. The 28 year-old midfielder skipped inside Daniel, and he found the perfect defence-splitting pass to send Wilson clear between Hayuma Tanaka and Takahiro Masukawa, the Brazilian finishing with aplomb low to Narazaki’s right from twelve yards. Wilson had been anonymous for most of this contest, his contribution to this point limited to twice appealing for penalties under the most minimal of pressure, but he underscored his importance to this Vegalta side with a clinical finish.
Naoki Sugai completed the scoring as the match entered added time, and Grampus were again at fault from a set piece. As an outswinging Vegalta corner curled into the penalty area from the right, Makoto Kakuda ran to the edge of the six yard area unimpeded, rising above Masukawa to powerfully head downwards. Narazaki made an excellent reaction stop diving to his right, but Sugai followed-up to send the rebound home.
With Shimizu S-Pulse defeated earlier in the day by Urawa Red Diamonds, Vegalta’s first victory in May allowed them to move five points clear of S-Pa and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who joined the Shizuoka Prefecture side on 22 points following their 3-2 victory over Vissel Kobe.
|Vegalta Sendai||Nagoya Grampus|
|Makoto Kakuda||58||Tulio Tanaka||37|
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of J.League Division 1 to five points, after Shimizu S-Pulse fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Urawa Red Diamonds. However, while the Miyagi Prefecture outfit have led the table for a prolonged period, they are yet to win a fixture in May, and face a Nagoya Grampus side now able to give their full attention to the domestic campaign on the back of a 3-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners which ensured their progress to the latter stages of the AFC Champions League. Stay with me as I bring you team news from the Yurtec Stadium, on an overcast but relatively mild evening in Sendai.
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai – Hayashi; Sugai, Kamata, Uemoto, Tamura; Tomita, Kakuda, Sekiguchi, Ryang Y-G; Wilson, Akamine
Substitutes – Sakurai; Watanabe, Uchiyama; Matsushita, Ota; Muto, Yanagisawa
0 Min: Nagoya Grampus – Narazaki; Tanaka Hayuma, Tanaka Tulio, Masukawa, Abe; Taguchi. Danilson, Fujimoto; Nagai, Josh Kennedy, Tamada
Substitutes – Takagi; Daniel, Alessandro Santos; Yoshimura, Tanabe; Kanazaki, Tanaka Teruki
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai supporters have launched into a stirring, full-blooded rendition of the club anthem “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Incredibly impressive.
0 Min: Both sides have taken to the field, the routine handshakes are undertaken, and the captains Ryang Yong-Gi for Vegalta Sendai and Seigo Narazaki for Grampus decide the coin toss, in a match which will be overseen by Masaaki Uemoto.
1 Min: Nagoya Grampus kick-off, and a long pass from midfield runs all the way through to Takuto Hayashi in the Vegalta goal, who clears downfield for a Grampus throw-in.
2 Mins: Kensuke Nagai finds teammate Jungo Fujimoto on the right, and he plays the ball off Jiro Kamata to earn his side a corner, which Fujimoto takes.
3 Mins: Shingo Tomita heads away for another corner at the near post. The second delivery is headed clear of the penalty area, and although Kennedy makes a clean connection with his shot from the edge of the area, it’s blocked and Vegalta clear.
6 Mins: It’s a positive opening from Nagoya Grampus.
10 Mins: Taishi Taguchi heads narrowly wide of Hayashi’s right upright.
15 Mins: Danilson has a set piece from 35 yard, awarded after Taikai Uemoto had been deemed to be holding Josh Kennedy, and Vegalta choose to only place two men in the wall. Danilson’s strike clears the wall easily, and although headed straight at Hayashi, the goalkeeper fumbles, and Makoto Kakuda is required to knock the ball away for a corner to tidy up with Kennedy and Takahiro Masukawa looming.
18 Mins: A terrible miss from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi after excellent play from Shingao Akamine and Ryang Yong-Gi. Akamine’s pass down the left channel released Ryang, and his pass across the six yard area was weighted perfectly for Sekiguchi to tap-in from two yards. Astonishingly, he knocks the ball wide.
20 Mins: Twenty minutes played, it’s Vegalta Sendai 0 Nagoya Grampus 0.
22 Mins: It seems Grampus are going to be forced into making an early change. Danilson, whose knee buckled in a challenge with Shingo Timota, signals to the bench that he can no longer continue. He exits the field on a stretcher, and is replaced by Keiji Yoshimuira.
26 Mins: Josh Kennedy and Keiji Tamada exchange passes, Kennedy bringing the ball down wonderfully from Tamada’s lobbed ball, but the volley is mis-hit and it’s well wide of Hayashi’s right upright.
28 Mins: A player from either side are down on the field, Tulio Tanaka who took a kick to the foot in challenging for an earlier ball with Akamine, while Taikai Uemoto struggles to his feet after an off-the-ball incident with Kennedy.
30 Mins: Nagoya Grampus have five attempts on goal thus far, the home side with just one. Ryang Yong-Gi attempts to even up the count a little as he delivers a set piece from forty yards deep into the penalty area, but Akamine is unable to reach it and the ball is over the touchline for a goal-kick.
32 Mins: Keiji Tamada surges down the left-wing past Naoki Sugai, before turning back and passing to Jungo Fujimoto two yards infield. He finds Shohei Abe, whose vicious cross is superbly headed away by Naoya Tamura.
34 Mins: This is a very dominant performance from Grampus at this stage. The early enforced absence of Danilson has done little to blunt the attacking flair of the forward three, and Keiji Yoshimura is proving a more than capable deputy.
36 Mins: A lovely turn in midfield from Keiji Tamada allows him to pick out Jungo Fujimoto on the left. Fujimoto chooses the wrong option for the pass, however, intending to slip a pass through to Kensuke Nagai when Tamada would have proved the simpler and better option.
37 Mins: The first booking of the match. Tulio Tanaka had given the ball in midfield, and was struggling to get back into position, so chose to clip the ankles of Makoto Kakuda.
38 Mins: GOAL! It’s completely against the run of play, and it’s Vegalta who take the lead. Shingo Akamine clips a pass for Kunimitsu Sekiguchi to run on to, the ball deflecting off Hayuma Tanaka. Tanaka may be caught unawares as he appears to think he has time and space to clear, but the the acceleration of the left-winger allows him to burst clear of the right-back, and although his low cross is blocked out by Seigo Narazaki, Ryang Yong-Gi is on hand to drive low into the goal at the near post. Goalkeeper Narazaki may have been expecting Ryang to cut the ball across goal, and having recovered from his earlier block, might have done better.
40 Mins: More pressure from Grampus, two good deliveries from Jungo Fujimoto on the left into the penalty area but expertly dealt with by an impressive Vegalta defence.
43 Mins: Vegalta retaining possession of the ball in defence, attempting to impose a slower rhythm than they had been allowed to play by a very dynamic, attack-minded Grampus side.
45 Mins: There will be five minutes of added time to play at the end of a very exciting first period.
45 Mins+4: GOAL! Grampus are required to defend two corners in quick succession, and it is the second they are unable to prevent from finding the net. Ryang Yong-Gi whipped the corner to the back post, Makoto Kakuda heading goalwards. In attempting to clear out for a further corner, Takahiro Masukawa only succeeds in putting the ball into his own net over the head of Jungo Fujimoto on the goalline, and Vegalta double their lead after a first-half in which they should really have gone into the interval behind.
45 Mins+4: Vegalta Sendai 2 Nagoya Grampus 0
45 Mins+5: Masaaki Uemoto blows his whistle to bring the first period to a close.
HT: Vegalta Sendai 2 Nagoya Grampus 0 HT: Grampus Manager Dragan Stojković will doubtless be bewildered as to how his side are behind at the break after dominating possession, territory and chances. Whether the second goal, which came on the stroke of half-time, will prove the decisive blow remains to be seen, but Grampus will almost certainly need to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to retain any hope of taking something from this match.
46 Mins: A second change for Grampus, Mu Kanazaki coming on for Taishi Taguchi.
50 Mins: Grampus could be three behind, defensive foibles exemplified by Seigo Narazaki who is unable to hold on to the simplest of crosses, presented to him by Sekiguchi, and Shohei Abe is called upon once more to clear away down the left-hand side.
57 Mins: Makoto Kakuda is shown a yellow card.
58 Mins: Makoto Kakuda attempts to strike from distance, and he forces Seigo Narazaki to go low to his right to make sure of the save. Kunimitsu Sekiguchi, who together with Ryang Yong-Gi has been at the heart of nearly everything Vegalta have created, was the player who provided the pass to find Kakuda in the hole.
60 Mins: Daniel is on as a substitute, and it is Keiji Tamada who makes way.
62 Mins: Tulio Tanaka rises well in the air to meet Jungo Fujimoto’s cross from the left, but it’s well clear of Takuto Hayashi’s crossbar. He looks disappointed, but it wasn’t the easiest of balls to control.
65 Mins: Vegalta have now fully imposed themselves on this encounter. Set up to counter-attack against what now seems an unbalanced away side, they are very comfortable in resisting Grampus attacks.
65 Mins: Wilson and Akamine link on the left-hand side, and gain a corner after Akamine plays the ball off Naoki Sugai.
68 Mins: Ryang’s initial cross is put behind for a further corner, to the consternation of his own defenders, by Daniel. Ryang strolls over to the opposite side of the field to take, which first Tulio and then Kanazaki clear.
72 Mins: Taikai Uemoto is in some considerable pain as he takes a knock to his knee during a challenge with Keiji Yoshimura, and he is immediately replaced by Kodai Watanabe.
76 Mins: The pace of the match has dropped somewhat, as Grampus try to find a way through a more compact Vegalta midfield. A cross is sent over from the left by Jungo Fujimoto, but it’s easily claimed by Takuto Hayashi.
77 Mins: Seigo Narazaki makes a good stop, diving to his right as Akamine unleashed a powerful drive from outside the penalty area.
79 Mins: Toshihiro Matsushita is on the field, in place of Shingo Akamine.
82 Mins: Mu Kanazaki undoes all his good work on the right-wing with a single touch. Dispossessing Naoya Tamura, he fired a quick pass to Fujimoto, who played the ball back into his path. He has the opportunity to play the ball square across goal, but he skews his cross and it is straight into the hands of Hayashi.
84 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota replaces Ryang Yong-Gi, who has been excellent today.
85 Mins: A deep cross from the right touchline, is headed back across by Daniel, which is easily taken away from the box by Naoya Tamura at pace. It seems he is going to go all the way, his run taking him to the edge of the penalty area, but he is just crowded out as he looks to get a shot away. A wonderful run from the defender.
86 Mins: GOAL! Immediately after Tulio Tanaka has a shot superbly cleared off the line by Jiro Kamata, Vegalta break. Yoshiaki Ota, collecting the ball on the right just inside the Grampus half, skips inside Daniel and finds a defence-splitting pass which allows Wilson to run unimpeded into the area. He calmly slots the ball to the right of the out-rushing Seiko Narazaki from 14 yards. This match is over, seconds after Tulio Tanaka must have through he had given his side a lifeline.
86 Mins: Vegalta Sendai 3 Nagoya Grampus 0
90 Mins: GOAL! Vegalta have a corner, and it’s curled right footed into the penalty area. Takahiro Masukawa is not in the best position to challenge Makoto Kakuda for the ball, and the Vegalta midfielder is able to direct his header on target. Narzaki makes a fine save, but Naoki Sugai is the first to react to the rebound and he knocks home to add a fourth for the home side.
90 Mins: Vegalta Sendai 4 Nagoya Grampus 0
90 Mins+3 With five minutes of added time to play, the crowd are in full voice after a second half in which Vegalta were well worth all four goals.
90 Mins+5: Masaaki Uemoto looks at his watch and brings the match to a close, having booked Takahiro Masukawa.
FT: Vegalta Sendai 4 Nagoya Grampus 0
FT: Dragan Stojković was forced into taking a risk by adding an extra forward to his side and destabilising his midfield in seeking a toehold in the game, and Vegalta were ruthless in exploiting the space in midfield and quickly breaking from defence. Vegalta’s third goal in particular serves as a tactician’s textbook example of how to counter-attack. Despite a first-half in which Grampus were dominant, Vegalta were well worth the four goals by the close of play, exposing gaps in midfield time and again as the away side looked for a way back into this match. Vegalta now go five points clear at the top of the table, and have their first win in May after a small stumble earlier in the month.
FT: Thank you for joining me. A match report will follow on 20 May.
Vegalta Sendai sustained their remarkable sequence of results with a combative performance at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium, but they have referee Futoshi Nakamura to thank for the very dubious decision to award a penalty which culminated in Wilson scoring the solitary goal of the contest, a ruling which was bitterly opposed by a number of players, most notably Bruno Lopes who was sent off in the aftermath. The repercussions of Lopes’s furious and sarcastic outburst towards Nakamura may yet be felt more strongly by Albirex, with an automatic one-match ban triggered by his two yellow cards at risk of being extended should the incident feature in the official’s match report.
The scoreline poorly reflected the balance of the match, Albi’s performance being wholly at odds with their recent exploits and one which belied their position in the Division 1 table, and until the 89th minute an impressive and dominant midfield led by Issao Homma and Naoya Kikuchi and a sound defence had contained a Vegalta attack that had previously scored an average of three goals per game. While the statistics of the match may try to convince otherwise, the home side recording just four shots compared to the nine for the visitors over the course of the ninety minutes, Albi may rue squandering a couple of excellent opportunities in the match which could have determined a happier outcome and sent a very vocal crowd home in good spirits.
After only six minutes had been played, Albirex were left to question another of Nakamura’s decisions, when Naoki Ishikawa had volleyed high into the Vegalta net and seemingly given his side the lead. Atomu Tanaka curled a free-kick from the left touchline, flicked on to the edge of the six-yard area by the excellent Kisho Yano, and as Ju-Sung Park failed to gain any distance on his diving clearance, Ishikawa controlled before swivelling and found the top right hand corner with his shot. However, after a period of consultation with his assistant, Daisuke Suzuki would be rightly deemed offside, clearly interfering with an opponent by obstructing goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi’s line of vision.
Twelve minutes had been played when Michael dispossessed Shingto Tomita twenty yards inside the Vegalta half, Isao Homma picking up the loose ball and turning to play a long pass to Yano on the right-hand side. Yano’s low cross into the penalty area was well-directed, flighted just inside the six-yard box, but Bruno Lopes tumbled to try and earn his side a penalty when he would have been better advised to attempt a header.
From the resulting corner, a Homma effort from 25 yards was blocked, but from the ensuing rebound a very narrowly offside Yano found the assistant referee’s flag raised, his shot blocked by Masaaki Higashiguchi but which fell to Bruno Lopes with an open goal at his mercy. Albirex had clearly identified a weakness in the Vegalta defence, who frequently struggled to deal with corners swung to the near post, together with the clever movement of Yano, Tanaka, Michael and Bruno Lopes. While chances were at a premium in both periods, a Tanaka corner shortly before the interval again delivered to the edge of the six-yard box was glanced goalwards by Yano, where more forceful contact may well have seen Higashiguchi beaten.
The half ended with Albirex in control of the match, if not the scoreline, and the second period began in the same manner, despite the early appearance of Vegalta in the tunnel, doubtless with a stinging rebuke from Makoto Teguramori ringing in their ears. It was nearly the third quarter of the match before Vegalta fashioned something akin to an opening. Yoshiaki Ota, the outstanding performer for the away team by some distance, dropped a long free-kick to the far post which Makota Kakuda directed across goal. Atsushi Yanagisawa, replacing the injured Shingo Akamine, couldn’t find the barest of headed touches which would have opened the scoring, marginally too slow to adjust to the strength of Kakuda’s pull-back. Then, with a quarter of an hour left to play, a long pass out of defence was collected by Wilson just over halfway, and he turned inside Ishikawa before arcing the ball through to substitute Toshihiro Matsushita on the overlap. A delicate, hanging cross to the back post was attacked by Ota, but he could only find the side-netting.
Sixty seconds later, and Albi could have taken the lead. An attempted Taikai Uemoto cross-field pass was dreadfully misplaced, Bruno Lopes pouncing on a ball intended for Ju-Sung Park on halfway. Lopes drove at the defender, carrying the ball to the edge of the penalty area before cutting inside and lashing a left-footed shot narrowly wide of Higashiguchi’s right upright, when a short pass to Michael may have been a better option.
The final word of this match would be left to Wilson, who had largely cut a disinterested and anonymous figure for duration of the game. A dinked Matsushita ball into the penalty area was first headed upwards by the Brazilian forward before he collapsed to the floor, leaving a bewildered Daisuke Suzuki to protest his innocence, before referee Nakamura added insult to injury by showing the centre-back a yellow card. Wilson stepped up to fire home, the ball sent into the bottom right-hand corner, Higashiguchi diving incorrectly to his right.
Albirex boss Hisashi Kurosaki can certainly take some satisfaction from the performance, if not the outcome, and should they continue to show the same spirit, determination and organisation in the weeks ahead, there is no reason why they should not find themselves clear of a relegation battle at the end of the 2012 season. Vegalta, meanwhile, stretched their lead at the top of the table to six points from closest challengers Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Urawa Red Diamonds, as they head into a tough test of their title credentials on Matchday Nine, away to a Sagan Tosu side unbeaten at the Best Amenity Stadium in any competition in 2012.
|Albirex Niigata||Vegalta Sendai|
|Kisho Yano||45+1||Ju-Sung Park||44|
|Sent Off||Min||Sent Off||Min|
0 Min: Hello, and thank you for joining me for today’s live-blog in which I’ll be covering the J.League Division 1 fixture featuring hosts Albirex Niigata and Vegalta Sendai. I’ll have team news for you in just a moment.
0 Min: Albirex Niigata – Higashiguchi; Uchida, Suzuki, Ishikawa, J-S Kim; Homma, Kikuchi, Tanaka; Yano, Michael, Bruno Lopes
0 Min: Substitutes – Ozawa; Oi, Murakami; Mikado, Alan Mineiro, Koyano; Hirai
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai – Hayashi; Tamura, Kamata, Uemoto, Park; Tomita, Kakuda, Ota, Sekiguchi; Yanagisawa, Wilson
0 Min: Substitutes – Sakurai; Uchiyama, Harada; Matsushita, Ryang; Muto, Nakahara
0 Min: Two changes to note for Vegalta from the side that comprehensively defeated FC Tokyo 4-0 on Matchday Seven. In come Naoya Tamura and Atsushi Yanagisawa, who replace the injured Naoki Sugai and Shingo Akamine respectively.
0 Min: There are three changes for the home side which lost 1-0 away to Sagan Tosu, Naoya Kikuchi in for Yuta Mikado, Atomu Tanaka replacing Alan Mineiro and Kisho Yano starts instead of Shoki Hirai.
0 Min: It’s a warm and bright afternoon in Niigata, 22 degrees and low humidity, perfect conditions for a game of football at the Niigata Stadium Big Swan.
1 Min: And at precisely 08:04 BST/16:04 JST, we’ve kicked-off, Vegalta Sendai commencing proceedings.
3 Mins: Vegalta very quick to snap into tackles and close down any Albirex possession, and the ball is staying predominantly in Albi territory.
4 Mins: Naoya Tamura concedes a needless free-kick in a dangerous area to the right of the penalty area. Can Albirex capitalise?
6 Mins: GOAL DISALLOWED Tamura’s infringement very nearly leads to the opening goal of the game. The free-kick is bent in by Tanaka, and is flicked on by Kisho Yano before being half-cleared by Joo-Sung Park. It falls to Naoki Ishikawa in the penalty area. He controls and thumps a volley beyond Takuto Hayashi. Hayashi appeals for offside, complaining of a player directly interfering with his view of the ball, and after a period of consultation between the referee and his assistant, the goal is ruled out.
6 Mins: Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai
12 Mins: While the goal was ruled out, they appear to have settled and it is a strong period of pressure for Albi. Kisho Yano is found on the right-wing, but as he directs a ball across the penalty area Bruno Lopes’s tumble in the penalty area is ignored in favour of a corner, to be taken by Atomu Tanaka. His cross is again to the near post, but this time it’s cleared for a throw-in.
12 Mins: Another let-off for Vegalta Sendai. Kishi Yano is narrowly offside as he reacts to a rebound in the penalty area. Hayashi got his body behind Yano’s shot, but it would have fallen to Bruno Lopes, with an open goal in which to slot a finish.
16 Mins: Vegalta have their first corner of the match, bent in by Yoshiaki Ota, but Higashiguchi gets a strong fist to the ball, and it is well-cleared by the Albirex goalkeeper.
20 Mins: The league leaders are struggling at the moment. Wilson is especially isolated in attack. Albi’s nominal 4-3-3 on paper is much closer to a 4-2-3-1, and Vegalta are struggling to find a way through the extra men supporting the defensive line, while the three attacking midfielders are doing an excellent job in tracking Vegalta players in possession.
20 Mins:Atomu Tanaka wastes an opportunity from a set piece, firing well clear of Hayashi’s crossbar from 25 yards.
23 Mins: Vegalta have also been suspect under high balls, with crosses and long throw-ins from the Albirex left regularly being met by one of their own players.
26 Mins: A second corner for Vegalta taken by Ota, but it’s well-claimed by Higashiguchi. He launches a very quick clearance, which Bruno Lopes plays on to Michael and the counter-attack ends in a corner for the home side.
26 Mins:Tanaka’s corner is swung in to the near post again, but Michael’s attempted heel-flick fails, swept upwards and easily saved by Hayashi to his left.
28 Mins: Bruno Lopes and Michael are linking well for Albirex Niigata, and a lovely quick exchange within the penalty area sees a return pass just miscontrolled by Michael bearing down on goal.
31 Mins: Kunimitsu Sekiguchi creates space for himself on the left-wing, stepping over the ball and forcing Daisuke Suzuki backwards. He whips a dangerous cross into the penalty area which is dealt with by Naoki Ishikawa. The ball is returned to Wilson out wide, but the forward is immediately surrounded by four players, and under pressure he can only concede a goal kick.
35 Mins: Ten minutes left to play in an eventful first period which the home side have largely dominated, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
36 Mins: Atomu Tanaka earns his side a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, pulled back by Jiro Kamata. Lenient refereeing from Futoshi Nakamura allows Kamata to evade a first booking of this match.
37 Mins: Tanaka fires the free-kick straight into Vegalta’s three man wall, but the ball is worked out to Naoki Ishikawa, who gains a further corner for his side, taken again by Kamata.
38 Mins: Kamata chooses this time to swing his cross a little deeper into the penalty area, but while Yano connects, it’s weak and directed straight at Hayashi.
40 Mins: A glancing header from Makoto Kakuda fails to trouble Higashiguchi from Tamura’s in-swinging cross out right, falling a couple of feet wide of the post.
41 Mins: Kisho Yano is pulled back by Joo-Sung Park close to the Vegalta goal-line. Tanaka attempts to find Bruno Lopes, but it is headed clear strongly by Taikai Uemoto.
45 Mins: Kisho Yano is brought down yet again by Joo-Sung Park, and his kick into the winger’s chest brings the first booking of this context.
45 Mins: Tanaka standing over the ball on the right touchline, but his delivery is poor and it’s easily cleared away from the Vegalta penalty area.
45 Mins: Kisho Yano is booked by referee Nakamura for returning to the field of play before he is permitted to do so, much to the crowd and Yano’s bemusement. It is, however, a perfectly legitimate yellow card.
45 Mins+1: The man in black brings the first period to a close.
HT: Vegalta Sendai’s expected strong start only lasted for roughly five minutes, and they have been dominated by an energetic Albirex Niigata team preying particularly on a perceived and real weakness in Vegalta’s ability to deal with a high ball. Their passing has also been eye-catching at times, the movement of Yano, Michael and Lopes causing numerous problems for Vegalta’s normally robust defence.
46 Mins: Perhaps after a stinging rebuke from manager Makoto Teguramori, Vegalta Sendai emerge from the tunnel early for the second period. Albirex get the final 45 minutes underway.
47 Mins: Masaaki Higashiguchi is quickly off his line after a through ball from Wilson nearly finds Atsushi Yanagisawa, the goalkeeper diving to clasp the ball at the striker’s feet.
49 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota nearly finds a break for Vegalta Sendai. Drawing across the penalty area from the right touchline, he plays a quick one-two with Wilson, and only the quick feet of Daisuke Suzuki prevents Ota from going clean through on goal.
50 Mins: A corner for Vegalta which Naoki Ishikawa attempts to clear with a scissor kick, but it drops to Taikai Uemoto to the left of the penalty area. He volleys on the turn, but it is clear of the crossbar, and Higashiguchi sends the resulting goal-kick long downfield.
51 Mins: A piece of wonderful control from Ota on the right-wing is followed by a disappointing cross which is much too close to Higashiguchi in the Albirex goal.
53 Mins: Kisho Yano is perhaps fortunate to escape a yellow card after putting a knee into the back of Taikai Uemoto.
54 Mins: As dominant as Albirex were in the first half, the roles have been reversed ten minutes into the second period. Vegalta significantly the stronger side, but they will need to find much better delivery from their set pieces if they are to force Masaaki Higashiguchi into making a save.
58 Mins: Jiro Kamata concedes a corner in clearning Jin-Su Kim’s cross from the Albirex right.
59 Mins: Tanaka’s cross is once again to the near post and is cleared, but Tanaka recovers, and wriggling his way past Wilson and Makoto Kakuda, he fires a ball across the penalty area which is just too high for Michael.
61 Mins: Bruno Lopes sends Michael clear 15 yards outside the Vegalta 18-yard box, but Jiro Kamata is very quick to close down and puts a strong foot in to prevent the forward continuing his run.
63 Mins: Bruno Lopes is shown a yellow card for a strong but seemingly fair challenge on Makoto Kakuda, which results in a free-kick ten yards in Albirex territory.
63 Mins: It’s so close to a goal for Vegalta. Yoshiaki Ota delivers a cross to the back post which Kakuda heads across goal, and it’s inches away from being turned in by Atsushi Yanagisawa.
64 Mins: The home side now have a free-kick 26 yards from goal. Atomu Tanaka waits to take the set piece.
64 Mins: Tanaka hits the wall, and while the ball rebounds to Jun Uchida, his first time effort from 22 yards is well wide of Takuo Hayashi’s right upright.
66 Mins: Naoya Kikuchi is the next into the book, as he takes away Jiro Kamata’s legs with a cynical trip.
67 Mins: Makoto Kakuda tries from distance, but his low shot, covered by Higashiguchi, drifts left of his right post.
72 Mins: Atsushi Yanagisawa is replaced by Toshihiro Matsushita For Vegalta Sendai. Yoshiaki Ota is finding plenty of space for the away team, drifting across the penalty area from his typical position in right midfield. Albirex, however, have produced a performance which belies their current position in the table.
75 Mins: Into the last quarter of an hour, it’s Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
75 Mins: Ota thinks he has scored, but it’s into the side netting. Wilson received the ball in space on the left, and played a lovely pass to an overlapping Matsushita. His cross is good, but Ota’s header is safely knocked wide by Higashiguchi who puts safety first.
76 Mins: Taikai Uemoto puts Joo-Sung Park into enormous difficulty after a dreadful crossfield pass is intercepted by Michael. The forward beats Uemoto and brings the ball onto his left foot in the penalty area, but he fires wide of Takuto Hayashi’s upright.
78 Mins: Albirex’s Jun Uchida makes way for Yusuke Murakami.
80 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota leaves the field for Yuki Moto.
80 Mins: 10 minutes of normal time remaining, but we remain scoreless, Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 0.
83 Mins: An excellent piece of defending from Joo-Sung Park takes the ball away from Bruno Lopes’s feet, with the forward almost one-on-one with Takuto Hayashi.
87 Mins: PENALTY! Wilson, who has been largely anonymous during this match, is judged to have been fouled by Daisuke Suzuki. Suzuki puts his arm across Wilson, and is booked for the offence, but it appears very harsh on the Albirex central defender.
88 Mins: Alan Mineiro is on the field in place of Atomu Tanaka.
88 Mins: Wilson is ready to take the spot kick while Albirex’s protests against the decision continue.
88 Mins: GOAL! Masaaki Higashiguchi, who has been commanding in goal for the home side, is unable to prevent Wilson scoring. The goalkeeper dives to his right, Wilson sending the ball into the opposite corner of the net.
88 Mins:Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 1
90 Mins: A furious Bruno Lopes is shown a second yellow card and sent off the field of plau. He continues his protest with Nakamura, sarcastically applauding the official on his way off the field, which will potentially result in frther punishment for the forward, who has to be dragged away by staff on the touchline.
90 Mins: There are four minutes of added time to be played.
90 Mins+2: Wilson is substitued, Tayayuki Nakahara on for the remaining moments of this match.
90 Mins+4: Four minutes of added time have been played, but the match continues, which is assumed to be for the delays to the match following Bruno Lopes’s sending off.
90 Mins+6: The referee whistles for the end of play, which is met with a significant and hostile reaction from the home support.
FT: Albirex Niigata have significant reason to feel aggrived by the decision which swayed the outcome of this match. A game they had largely dominated, albeit in which they had created few clear-cut opportunities, was almost certainly heading for a draw until Futoshi Nakamura pointed to the spot to allow Wilson to give Vegalta Sendai the victory. Albirex’s overall performance may give manager Hisashi Kurosaki some comfort, but they may face a prolonged period without forward Bruno Lopes after his furious reaction to being shown a second yellow card.
FT:Albirex Niigata 0 Vegalta Sendai 1
FT: Thank you for joining me. A full match report will appear on this website on Sunday 29 April.
(Fan footage captures Naoki Sugai – at 4:06 – scoring with a header in the 2011 J.League Division 1 fixture between Albirex Niigata and Vegalta Sendai. The midfielder’s header came in the 95th minute, cancelling out Yuta Mikado’s 72nd minute opener, and allowed Vegalta to escape with a point)
Albirex Niigata go in search of their first home victory in J.League Division 1 on 28 April, but the sixteenth placed strugglers could not be coming up against a tougher opponent as they host undefeated league leaders Vegalta Sendai at the Niigata Stadium Big Swan. Albi’s defence is relatively solid at their Niigata ground, conceded just three times so far in the 2012 campaign, but they have found goals very difficult to come by, a miserly return of two merely underlining how they find themselves near the bottom of the table.
Vegalta, on the otherhand, have taken 19 points from a maximum 21 and boast a 100% away record, having scored the greatest number of goals and conceded the fewest on the road. Albi will also be unable to draw any comfort from Vegalta forward Shingo Akamine being absent through injury, as while the forward has contributed four goals for the Sendai side, two of the top five goalscorers so far this season can be found in Yoshiaki Ota and Kunimitsu Sekiguchi. The two previous ties since Vegalta returned to J1 in 2010 resulted in 1-1 draws, but any result other than an away victory is certain to be of surprise.
join me from 07:00 BST/15:00 JST for team news as the live blog gets underway, and 08:00 BST/16:00 JST for kick-off.
A strangely subdued and lacklustre FC Tokyo failed to hit the heights of their mid-week AFC Champions League victory, a goal conceded just before the interval culminating in a second-half collapse which saw Vegalta Sendai race to a 4-0 victory. Manager Ranko Popović rewarded the performance of two of his young forwards with places in the starting line-up, Kazuma Watanabe and Yohei Otake chosen at the expense of Lucas and Tatsuya Yazawa respectively. It was a bold and admirable selection which failed to pay dividends, the attacking flair on display in the 3-0 win over Beijing Guoan stifled by the muscular athleticism in the Vegalta Sendai team. Shingo Tomita and Makoto Kakuda in particular were always on hand to close down the Gas’s three advanced midfielders, and they were aided by the excellent pressing of forwards Wilson and Shingo Akamine, who regularly shut down supply routes out of the Tokyo defence, forcing them to play an unfamiliar long-passing game on a number of occasions.
The first period was largely a scrappy affair, Vegalta more comfortable in possession but neither side creating any opportunities of note, and 25 minutes passed by with little incident except for referee Minoru Tojo’s odd decision-making, the quality of play summed up by a wild and speculative effort from Tajuki Yonemoto which only troubled the Yurtec Stadium’s advertising hoardings. Indeed, Tojo would go on to hand out seven yellow cards in a match largely free of malicious or reckless challenges, and although a physical contest and occasionally niggly, the officious nature of the referee was entirely out of keeping with a match conducted mainly in good spirit. An additional 23 minutes had passed before the overzealous official became less of a talking point, replaced instead by a superb piece of judgement from assistant referee Toshiyuki Nagi. Jiro Kamata, eight yards inside his own half, floated a long free-kick towards the FC Tokyo penalty spot. Spotting defender Hyun-Soo Jang level with Shingo Akamine, the assistant allowed play to continue, and the forward’s perfectly timed run ended with him controlling before slotting past Shuichi Gonda into the bottom left, the Gas’s appeals for offside to no avail. The goal, three minutes into first-half stoppage time, was the last action before Tojo drew proceedings to a close.
Vegalta opened the second period strongly, and Yoshiaki Ota had the ball in the net two minutes after the restart only to find his finish ruled out correctly for offside. Ten minutes later, however, they had doubled their advantage, a pass from Makoto Kakuda 15 yards into opposition territory sliding through three FC Tokyo players to find an unmarked Yoshiaki Ota, and his superb cross met with an equally superb finish from twelve yards by Kunimitsu Sekiguchi, who bravely headed with Naohiro Ishikawa’s boot in close proximity. Gonda was given no chance as the ball few into the top left.
The Gas were struggling to piece together any passes, and the appearance of substitutes Sotan Tanabe, Tatsuya Yazawa and Lucas failed to make any difference. Vegalta nearly made it three when a long-range Toshihiro Matsushita free-kick in the left channel came close to deceiving Gonda, and the keeper adjusted well to push the ball on to his crossbar and behind for a corner with all players beyond the midfielder seemingly expecting him to cross. Vegalta were not to be denied a third, however, and Popović will rue some casual defending from Hideto Takahashi which led to the goal. Takahashi first failed to block a Kakuda cross close to the Gas goalline, and although Jang headed clear, it fell to Shingo Tomita 25 yards out. His attemped shot was heading wide when it was controlled by Ota, who had been played onside by Takahashi in having made no effort to join his defensive line. Ota turned simply and sent his finish under the body of Gonda to make the scoreline 3-0.
FC Tokyo’s misery was complete three minutes from time. Kakuda took a set piece from the right touchline, which an unfortunate Jang nodded into Lucas’s path. Although his volley was blocked superbly by Gonda at close range, the rebound fell kindly for Jiro Kamata to smash home from two yards.
Vegalta’s finish in the top four last year, which took place amidst the backdrop of the 2011 Tohuku Earthquake and Tsunami, was a sign of the enormous strides the Miyagi Prefecture outfit had taken under the shrewd management of Makoto Teguramori, who masterminded their promotion to J.League Division 1 in 2009 with a staggering 106 points, and then consolidated their status in the top-tier of Japanese football in finishing fourteenth a year later. What 2012 holds for Vegalta is not yet clear, but it is certainly reasonable to mark them out as genuine title contenders.
|Vegalta Sendai||FC Tokyo|
|Makoto Kakuda||20||Yohei Otake||45+2|
|Jiro Kamata||37||Kosuke Ota||50|
0 Min: Good morning, and welcome to today’s live blog in which I’ll be covering the match between league leaders Vegalta Sendai and an FC Tokyo side which has begun its return to the top tier of Japanese football in excellent fashion. I’ll have team news for you very shortly.
0 Min: Vegalta Sendai – Hayashi; Sugai, Kamata, Uemoto, Park; Tomita, Kakuda, Ota, Sekiguchi, Wilson, Akamine
0 Min: Substitutes – Sakurai; Uchiyama, Tamura; Matsushita, Ryang; Muto, Yanagisawa
0 Min: FC Tokyo – Gonda; Tokunaga, Morishige, Jang, Ota; Takahashi, Yonemoto, Ishikawa, Otake, Hanyu; Watanabe
0 Min: Substitutes – Shiota; Maruyama, Mukuhara; Tanabe, Yazawa; Hirayama, Lucas
0 Min: So Makoto Teguramori makes a single change to the team which defeated Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 on Matchday Six, Toshihiro Matsushita dropping to the bench to make way for the returning Makoto Kakuda. FC Tokyo boss Ranko Popović rewards Yohei Otake and Kazuma Watanabe for their sparkling performance in the 3-0 AFC Champions League victory versus Beijing Guoan, replacing Sotan Tanabe and Lucas respectively.
0 Min: It’s a cloudy but dry and mild night at the Yurtec Stadium, and the sights of Vegalta’s flags waving in the wind are met with the sounds of the away section singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
0 Min: FC Tokyo get this match underway, and are immediately on the attack.
2 Mins: Shingo Akamine takes the first shot of this match, from a very tight angle with few options in support, and it is gathered easily by Shuichi Gonda.
5 Mins: FC Tokyo probing around the Vegalta Sendai midfield, Yohei Otake clearly fouled but the referee giving the decision to the home side.
7 Mins: A looping header from Shingo Akamine after Yoshiaki Ota corner on the right which clears Gonda’s cross bar.
8 Mins: A long ball from defence by Jiro Kamata to Wilson requires a touch by Kosuke Ota, and it is a second corner for Vegalta. The header from the right is out for a goal kick, though it appeared to take a touch from the away side. Gonda takes the kick quickly.
9 Mins: Vegalta pressing high up the field, and FC Tokyo are struggling to find possession at this early stage. However, Takai Uemoto slices a clearance and the Gas have a corner. The set piece fails to clear the first defender, however, and Vegalta break.
11 Mins: Half-hearted appeals for a penalty from Vegalta which seemed a reasonable shout. A pass from Wilson is knocked on to Yoshiaki Ota, and cutting across the penalty area from the right touchline his left-footed shot meets with an FC Tokyo hand. The deflection sends the ball to the right corner of goal, but Gonda gathers under pressure from a Vegalta player.
14 Mins: An interesting tactic from Vegalta. The midfield line presses high any time the FC Tokyo defenders are in possession in their own half, and Wilson and Akamine are very quick to close down players on the ball.
17 Mins: Some odd decisions in this match, Naohiro Ishikawa having both ankles clipped but the referee fails to spot the infringement.
18 Mins: Makoto Kakuda goes into the book for a challenge on Shuichi Gonda, the Under-23 Samurai Blue goalkeeper’s reaction entirely at odds with what seems a fairly attempted header, and he jumps quickly back to his feet once the yellow card is shown.
23 Mins: Vegalta Sendai certainly the more comfortable side in possession at this stage, but very few opportunities created by either stage mid-way through the first period, best summed up by a wild Takuji Yonemoto shot from 25 yards which sails over Takuto Hayashi’s crossbar.
25 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota is felled by Kosuke Ota in the right corner near the touchline, but he gets up to play a low cross in the penalty area. Honest play from the midfielder, who could otherwise have stayed down and almost certainly have seen the FC Tokyo left-back booked.
26 Mins: Naoki Sugai is found in space on the Vegalta right, but with plenty of time to swing in a cross it’s sent over the goalline for Gonda to clear.
27 Mins: A free kick for Vegalta on halfway after Shingo Akamine is tripped by Hideto Takahashi. It’s played long to the edge of the FC Tokyo penalty area, and cleared by Hyun-Soo Jang.
29 Mins: A strong run down the right by Yohei Tokunaga is brought to an end by equally strong defending from Ju-Sung Park, who marshals the ball out of play for a goal kick to the home side.
30 Mins: Hideto Takahashi leads with an elbow in Wilsn’s back, and Yoshiaki Ota has a set-piece 10 yards inside the FC Tokyo half. There’s a half-chance for Makoto Kakuda to take it on the volley, but he mis-hits his shot and the danger is subsequently cleared.
34 Mins: Another stoppage in quite a niggly, stop-start game, Shingo Tomita giving away a free-kick on halfway.
35 Mins: Jiro Kamata receives the second yellow card of this match for a high foot which connects with Kosuke Ota’s face. It’s a nasty looking challenge and Ota requires some treatment. After a couple of minutes Ota is back on his feet but will need to come off to clean up what is a blood injury. The away side temporarily down to ten men.
37 Mins: Naohiro Ishikawa bends in a cross from the left touchline, which bounces through to goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.
39 Mins: A surging run from Wilson through the FC Tokyo midfield is stopped by an excellent sliding challenge from Hideto Takahashi.
40 Mins: Five minutes remaining in a scrappy first-half, it’s Vegalta Sendai 0 FC Tokyo 0.
43 Mins: Shingo Akamine receives the ball in the penalty area following a lovely cross from Yoshia Ota from the right touchline, but his attempted flick over Hyun-Soo Jang doesn’t come off.
44 Mins: A superb block from Shingo Tomita stops Hideto Takahashi getting a shot away.
44 Mins: Naoki Sugai is limping but looks to carry on until half-time for treatment. He hobbles to the touchline to receive some treatment.
45 Mins: Yohei Otake goes into the book for FC Tokyo.
45 Mins+2: GOAL! Jiro Kamata’s free-kick is floated into the 18-yard box, and Shingo Akamine beats the offside trap with two FC Tokyo players appealing for a decision, cooly controlling before slotting his shot past Gonda into the bottom left.
45 Mins+2: Vegalta Sendai 1 FC Tokyo 0
45 Mins+2: That’s the last action of the first period as the referee blows his whistle for half-time.
HT: That goal has enlivened an otherwise dreary affair, a terrible time for FC Tokyo to concede. Questionable defending from Hyun-Soo Jang, who dropped off Akamine in attempting to play offside.
45 Mins: Back underway in this match.
46 Mins: Wilson has to check his run in attack and a good through ball runs on to Gonda.
47 Mins: Yoshiaki Ota has the ball in the FC Tokyo net, but he is clearly offside in receiving Wilson’s delicate pass through the Gas defence and the goal is correctly ruled out for offside. Warning signs for the away team, however, two breaks down the left in quick succession nearly finding a way in behind the back four.
50 Mins: Kosuke Ota is shown a yellow card in the Vegalta penalty area, his touch to bring the ball on to his right foot is too strong and he follows through on Shingo Tomita. Quite an officious decision.
51 Mins: FC Tokyo have a free-kick in a dangerous area. Jiro Kamata moves away to allow Naohiro Ishikawa to set up for the set piece 15 yards from the Vegalta area. His cross to the edge of the penalty area is headed well wide by Kazuma Watanabe.
52 Mins: Taikai Uemoto is now shown a yellow card. Both sides racking up cards for rather innocuous offences.
54 Mins: Several changes to note. Naoki Sugai could no longer continue at half-time, and was replaced by Naoya Tamura, and goalscorer Shingo Akamine also came off for Toshihiro Matsushita. FC Tokyo have made all three substitutions at this stage, Takuji Yonemoto, Yohei Otake and Naotake Hanyu exiting the field Sotan Tanabe, Tatsuya Yazawa and Lucas on in their place.
57 Mins: GOAL! Kunimitsu Sekiguchi bravely puts his head to the ball under strong pressure from Morishige, and it is beyond Gonda’s right hand after a superb cross.
57 Mins: Vegalta Sendai 2 FC Tokyo 0
61 Mins: FC Tokyo not finding their passing range today. Substitute Lucas, in-field, tries to switch play to the right wing, but it is just too heavy for Yohei Tokunaga, who would have been able to break. Another pass is too strong for Ishikawa, who turns away from the goalline with a rueful smile on his face.
65 Mins: A corner for Vegalta Sendai, taken by Matsushita, is punched well-clear by Gonda.
67 Mins: CROSSBAR! Gonda is almost deceived by a free-kick from the left channel by Matsushita, and what seems a deliberate attempt on goal is pushed on to the crossbar by the goalkeeper and over for a corner.
67 Mins: Mid-way through the second-half, it’s still Vegalta Sendai 2 FC Tokyo 0 .
71 Mins: Lucas is booked for a clear dive in the Vegalta penalty area. Naohiro Ishikawa plays a pass from the lef of the penalty area which the Brazilian touches away from Takuto Hayashi and then falls to the floor with a theatrical tumble. No complaint regarding the decision from the Brazilian.
75 Mins: Referee Tojo reaches into his pocket again, showing Wilson a card for a late challenge, before sending FC Tokyo manager Ranko Popovic to the stands for dissent.
76 Mins: GOAL! An attempted shot from outside the penalty area from Vegalta, and although going wide it is controlled by Yoshiaki Ota, who is clearly onside, and he turns and fires a low shot under the body of Gonda.
76 Mins: Vegalta Sendai 3 FC Tokyo 0
78 Mins: Lucas and Ishikawa exchange passes on the edge of the penalty area, Ishikawa’s left-footed cross on the turn met by the Brazilian but it is weak and past the right post.
81 Mins: Into the final 10 minutes, and I don’t remember FC Tokyo having one shot on target in this match. A poor performance from the Gas, outmusculed in all areas of the field and unable to deal with Vegalta’s pressing.
83 Mins: Tatsuya Yazawa wins a corner for FC Tokyo, which he takes. Bent along the six yard box, it is easily caught by Hayashi.
85 Mins: Lucas has beaten Vegalta’s offside trap, but he is on his heels as the pass was made from Yohei Tokunaga and the ball is collected by Hayashi.
86 Mins: A free-kick deep in FC Tokyo territory for Vegalta. Two players are over the ball, but it will be taken by Toshihiro Matsushita.
86 Mins: GOAL! Matsushita’s cross drops to Lucas, and although his shot across the angle is met with a good save from Gonda, the rebound falls kindly to Jiro Kamata who smashes it home from close range.
86 Mins: Vegalta Sendai 4 FC Tokyo
88 Mins: Vegalta readying their final substitute, North Korean international Yong-Gi Ryang coming on for Yoshiaki Ota, which is received rapturously by the Vegalta fans.
90 Mins: We’re playing added time at the Yurtec.
90 Mins+2: Pressure from FC Tokyo but it’s all too late, and any attempts to penetrate the defence are met with solid defending.
90 Mins+4: Two Vegalta Sendai corners are cleared, both won by Wilson, and referee Tojo blows the whistle to bring this match to an end. Vegalta were certainly worthy winners against an FC Tokyo side seemingly bereft of ideas.
FT: Vegalta Sendai 4 FC Tokyo 0
FT: Thank you for joining me. A full match report will follow later today.
(FC Tokyo fall to a surprising 2-1 home defeat to Kashima Antlers on Matchday Six. The Gas travel to the Yurtec Stadium in a challenging tie against league leaders Vegalta, but will be full of confidence after an excellent mid-week performance in the AFC Champions League)
League leaders Vegalta Sendai host fifth place FC Tokyo at the Yurtec Stadium on Saturday 21 April in what is sure to be a fascinating clash. FC Tokyo will visit Sendai on the back of a superb 3-0 AFC Champions League victory against Beijing Guoan, which took the Gas to the brink of qualification for the Round of 16. FC Tokyo will be relatively fresh for the weekend’s game, manager Ranko Popović having rested several regular starters for some youthful players in a team with an average age of just over 24. Undefeated Vegalta, meanwhile, have no reason to fear any side and particularly not at the Yurtec, where they average more than two goals per game in J.League Division 1 and but have conceded less than one across all competitions. With Vegalta spending six years in Division 2 until their promotion and championship winning season of 2009, and FC Tokyo’s relegation a year later, history tells us little of how the sides match up, Vegalta’s 3-2 win in the 2010 J1 campaign one of very few games played between the two teams in recent years. Join me from 10:30 BST/18:30 JST for team and squad news, with kick-off scheduled for 11:00 BST/19:00 JST.
The team from Miyagi Prefecture have added two new names to the coaching staff for the 2012 season under manager Makoto Teguramori. Harasaki Masato, who retired as a player after spending the 2004 season at the Yurtec Stadium, has subsequently pursued a career in coaching, with a six year stint at Omiya Ardija and is now on the senior roster at Vegalta.
Another former player has been promoted to a senior role. Shin Nakamura, who was an integral part of the 2001 J.League Division Two side which finished runners-up and were promoted to the top-flight, has performed several roles in the youth ranks, most recently as head coach.