J.League Division One: Matchday Two Round-up

Cerezo took the spoils against city rivals Gamba, winning 2-1 in their first derby victory since 2003. The match appeared to be heading for a draw until the fourth and final minute of added time, when Kempes, benefiting from a significant height advantage over Akira Kaji, beat the right-back to Noriyuki Sakemoto’s cross and directed a powerful header past Yosuke Fujigaya in the Gamba goal.

Cerezo opening the scoring on 19 minutes, Bo-Hyung Kim playing a low pass to Branquinho on the edge of the Gamba penalty area. The attacking midfielder’s turn confused defender Sota Nakazawa, and advancing inside the box he struck a fine shot low beyond Fujigaya’s despairing dive. Gamba levelled matters eight minutes later, Rafinha’s perfectly executed free-kick from 25 yards rising over the Cerezo wall and bending into the right-hand corner of the net.

The result ensured new manager Jose Carlos Serrao suffered his third consecutive defeat and leaves Gamba still in search of their first points of the season in any competition. Serrao, who has already apologised to Gamba supporters following their disastrous performance at home in the humbling 3-0 2012 AFC Champions League defeat to Pohang Steelers, is largely acting as a placeholder for former Japanese international Wagner Lopes while he earns the necessary coaching credentials. Gamba’s long-serving manager Akira Nishino stepped down at the end of the 2011 season. Nishino’s legacy is a difficult one to follow, with an AFC Champions League, a J.League title, an Emperor’s Cup and two J.League Cups in the trophy cabinet, while only finishing outside the top 3 on two occasions in his decade-long tenure. However, if the sequence of performances and results continues to be sub-standard under Serrao, both he and assistant Lopes may come under pressure to step aside.

Vegalta Sendai made it two wins out of two in the J.League, downing Yokohama F-Marinos 2-0 at the Nissan Stadium before a crowd of nearly 20,000. There was a touch of good fortune for Vegalta’s opener, Hirko Iikura’s stunning reflex save from Naoya Tamura’s flicked header rebounding off Vegalta forward Wilson, and with Sendai defender Naoki Sugai’s attempted header misdirected straight into the air, Shingo Akamine was able to pounce with two minutes remaining until half-time. Vegalta’s second came as late as the 98th minute, Iikura merely succeeding in bringing down substitute Yuki Moto, and Yoshiaka Ota made no mistake from the penalty spot. Despite Iikura guessing correctly, Ota drove a superbly taken with a superbly taken penalty driven to the bottom left corner beyond the goalkeeper’s dive.

A small crowd of just over 4,000 at the Home’s Stadium Kobe witnessed a fortunate victory for Vissel against newly promoted Consadole Sapporo. Vissel’s winning start to the season remained intact largely owing to the kkaido side’s failure to capitalise on several goalscoring opportunities. Consadole started the game very brightly and took the lead on seven minutes when Shunsuke Maeda’s header crashed against the crossbar, and Masaki Yamamoto was the first to react to the rebound, sending his shot beyond Kenta Tokushige. 22 minutes had elasped when Vissel struck back, Hideo Tanaka cleverly holding up play on the edge of the Consadole area, before diverting the ball into Gakuto Kondo’s path, the 31 year-old defender striking a fierce shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Sapporo continued to press, but it would be substitute Ken Tokura who would settle the game in the Kansai team’s favour. The forward was introduced with 30 minutes remaining, and he made no mistake in winning the game for Vissel in the 83rd minute with a close-range shot from Gatuko Kondo’s well-judged low cross.

Joining Vegalta, Vissel and FC Tokyo on six points are Kawasaki Frontale. Frontale’s second 1-0 win in a row also made it two defeats in a row for vanquished Kashima Antlers, the only goal of the match coming in first-half injury time when new signing Renato stepped up to take a fee-kick he had won himself, and guided the ball past Hitoshi Sogahata. You can read the match report for FC Tokyo 3 Nagoya Grampus 2 here.

Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol’s miserable start to the season continued. A 36th minute goal from forward Ranko Despotovic, his first in the J.League after joining the Reds in 2011 ensured all three points remained in Saitama. The Sun Kings, who began the season with a shock 3-2 2011 AFC Champions League defeat to Buriram United, and drew 3-3 with Yokohama F-Marinos on the opening day of the season, next face Shimizu S-Pulse at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, where they will hope to return to winning ways.

S-Pa, meanwhile, notched up a 2-1 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their first home game of the season. With a 13,000 crowd looking on at the Outsourcing Stadium, a 9th minute goal from Australian utility player Alex Brosque coming after Shusaku Nishikawa had saved well from Yosuke Kawai. Six minutes after the restart Toshiyuki Takagi doubled the lead, and an 87th minute Kazuhiko Chiba header from a Yojiro Takahagi corner could not prevent Sanfre from falling to their first J.League defeat of the season.

Albirex Niigata will head to Nagoya Grampus on 25 March still in search of their first points, stumbling to a 2-1 defeat by Omiya Ardija at the Tohoku Electric Power Big Swan Stadium. Two second-half goals from defender Kosuke Kikuchi and Rafael overturned the half-time deficit, Bruno Lopes heading in a Yusuke Murakami cross after 11 minutes had elapsed.

Sagan Tosu’s four shots were sufficient to give the visitors at the Yahama Stadium a 1-0 lead over Jubilo Iwata on 17 minutes, but Jubilo’s pressure told with goals on 27 and 34 minutes from Kiroki Yamada and Yuichi Komano. Last year’s J.League Division 2 top-scorer Yohei Toyada opened the scoring for the top-flight newcomers, but a deflected Yamada shot and Komano’s free-kick meant Jubilo would take all three points.

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