J.League Division 1: Matchday Six Round-up

(Urawa Red Diamonds defeat Vissel Kobe 2-0 and move into second place on Matchday Six of J.League Division 1. The Saitama Stadium saw a contender for goal of the month as Marcio Richardes added the secod for the Reds with a spectacular free-kick)

Vegalta Sendai’s assault on J.League Division One continued unabated with a 3-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, though they were forced to take the lead three times as the Sun Kings twice fought back to level. Reysol, whose indifferent beginnings to this season cut across all competitions and who have struggled in particular to cement a leaky defence, went behind as early as the second minute when Naoki Sugai headed in a Yoshiaki Ota corner. The single goal remained the only difference between the two sides until ten minutes into the second period, Leandro Domingues cleverly equalising in quickly taking a direct free-kick, but within sixty seconds the home side were once again behind as Kunimitsu Sekiguchi met Wilson’s low cross and diverted the ball beyond Takanori Sugeno. Domingues scored his and Reysol’s second equaliser of the match with 20 minutes played of the second-half when he sublimely volleyed home from a looping Masato Fujita cross at a very tight angle, but twelve minutes from time Shingo Akamine turned in another Ota assist and this time the home side could not respond. Domingues then compounded Kashiwa’s frustrations by picking up two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, and the 2011 J.League Player of the Year now faces an automatic one match suspension. Vegalta manager Makoto Teguramori praised his side’s resilience, saying “We always took the lead by breaking their balance to take our chances. We gained three points from the win, but we also showed that my players have mental strength”.

Sagan Tosu’s thrilling progress in their first season in the top-flight was sustained, downing Sanfrecce Hiroshima by a single goal. Kota Mizunuma drove home explosively with a first-time effort from 22 yards after a free-kick was diverted into his path, the ball steadily rising into the left corner and far beyond the right hand of a diving Shusaku Nishikawa. All of Sagan’s points in J1 so far this season have come at home, and the aim now must surely be to replicate the stunning form shown at the Best Amenity Stadium on their travels.

Urawa Red Diamonds moved into second place in J.League Division 1 following a comfortable 2-0 win at the Saitama Stadium, a crowd of nearly 26,000 going home happy as Vissel Kobe provided little to worry the Reds. Yuki Abe, who returned to Urawa after a prolonged bout of homesickness put paid to his spell at English nPower Championship side Leicester City, scored his first goal in any competition this year to hand the Reds the advantage with eight minutes played in the second period. Yosuke Kashiwage’s corner from the left landed at his feet after clearing the heads of several defenders, and quickly shifting feet he shot low past Kenta Tokushige to the evident delight of teammates and crowd alike. Marcio Richardes then made the match safe with a stunning free-kick on 77 minutes. Tomoaki Makino and Yosuke Kashiwagi had also set their sights on the dead ball, but it was the Brazilian midfielder who took three steps before bending the ball serenely over the Vissel wall and into the top-left corner from 30 yards.

Albirex Niigata finally recorded their first victory of the 2012 league campaign, surprising hosts Cerezo Osaka with a 1-0 victory at the Kincho Stadium. It was a game of few clear cut opportunities, the best of which fell to forward Michael making his first start of the season for Albi. The Brazilian spurned the chance to give his side the lead, shooting wide when presented with an open goal midway through the second half. Albi, who prior to Saturday had found the net just three times in J1, had 80th minute substitute Kisho Yano to thank for the win. Replacing Alan Mineiro, he received a loose ball on the right edge of the penalty area, and he fired an upstoppable shot low into the bottom left in the 85th minute, helping his side move up two places in the table to thirteenth.

It will come as little consolation to Cerezo that another team fell to an unexpected home defeat, FC Tokyo the victims of a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Kashima Antlers at the Ajinomoto Stadium. Only the excellent goalkeeping of Japan Under-23 Samurai Blue Shuichi Gonda prevented Yuya Osaka from scoring with a bullet header at a corner, and on 29 minutes Gonda was called into action again, bravely closing down Shinzo Koroki and diving at his feet after the forward had received a defence piercing pass, taking a blow to his knee which ended his involvement in the match.

Into the second period a wonderful pass from Gas defender Masato Morishige inside halfway found Naotake Hanyu in plenty of space midway into Antlers territory, and his pull back to twenty yards was well struck first-time by Naohiro Ishikawa but found the midriff of Antler’s goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.

A defensive mix-up then nearly gifted Kashima the lead, Hideto Takahashi put under pressure by a poorly timed pass from a teammate which he could only divert to replacement goalkeeper Hitoshi Shiota. Fortunately for the home side Mitsuo Ogasawara’s concealed layoff to Yasushi Endo was blocked by the body of the diving Kosuke Ota. However, Ota undid his fine defensive work by under-hitting a pass that Yasushi Endo intercepted on halfway, and drawing into the heart of midfield from the right wing, the Antlers midfielder played a perfectly judged pass into the path of Yuya Osaka. All that remained was for Osako to cross low into the penalty area for a waiting Shinzo Koroke, who dinked the ball over Shiota into the net with 24 minutes left on the clock.

Only six minutes remained of normal time when FC Tokyo thought they had recovered a point after they were handed their own indirect free-kick inside the Antlers penalty area, Toru Araiba harshly adjudged to have passed the ball back to his goalkeeper when it seemed he was merely attempting to clear behind. Ishikawa passed right to Lucas, who struck the ball twice and each time was repelled by Antlers defenders, but a rebound diverted to Sotan Tanabe, who adjusted his body position well to volley first-time left-footed into the Antlers goal.

Antlers forward Juninho, however, had other ideas, and four minutes into stoppage time the substitute glided down the left wing before cutting inside Takahashi and unleashing a powerful shot from the edge of the area which Shiota could only parry into the path of Endo, and the forward calmly controlled on his chest before putting the ball into the empty net. The victory gives the Antlers their first win in J1 this year, and relieves some of the pressure on manager Jorginho.

The draw specialists of the early weeks of the season Yokohama F-Marinos picked up another point, sharing the spoils with Omiya Ardija at a very wet NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Football Stadium. Shunsuke Nakamura was desperately unlucky not to score an opener for the home side, his free-kick from 22 yards beating goalkeeper Takashi Kitano but not the bar as it bounced down and away from danger. Ardija forward Rafael, seemingly fenced in on the right wing, then did brilliantly to fend off Yuji Nakazawa and curl a delightful cross into the penalty area, but Jun Kanakubo misjudged the flight of the ball, and taking too long to set himself allowed Yuzo Kurihara enough time to block his shot away for a corner. Nakamura again went close, a wicked swerving, dipping shot from 30 yards narrowly beating the Ardija cross bar, before Ardija did the same with a Shusuke Tsubouchi header.

The Marinos did score on 53 minutes, Shingo Hyodo prodding a pass to Yuji Ono on the left of the 18-yard box, and the forward stepped inside defender Kosuke Kikuchi to bend a shot inside the right upright. Yokohama managed to hold on to the lead until the 82nd minute. A cross was defelected into the penalty area which Rafael headed down to Yu Hasegawa, and the substitute slotted home to ensure that the Marinos remain winless after six league games.

Consadole Sapporo look set for a very difficult season as they fell to defeat at the Nagoya Stadium, conceding three and scoring only one as Grampus exposed Consa’s defensive frailties. Only 3 minutes had elapsed when a clever pass from Jungo Fujimoto allowed Mu Kanazaki the time and space to side-foot into the bottom right past an onrushing Ho-Seung Lee. Matters were made even worse twelve minutes later when the unfortunate Tatsuki Nara diverted a Shohei Abe cross into his net, being deceived by Jungo Fujimoto’s attempted shot. Only exquisite football around the Consadole penalty area was responsible for Grampus’s third goal, however. Abe found Keiji Tamada in the left channel, who passed to Kensuke Nagai on the edge of the area. Nagai rolled the ball first time to Kanazaki, who controlled and artfully backheeled into the path of Tamada who had continued his run, and he slid to shoot into the bottom left from six yards to wrap up the three points. Hiroyuki Furuta scored the solitary goal for Consa, coming in the 90th minute.

16,000 fans at the Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira were witness to a pulsating Shizuoka derby, S-Pulse emerging with the three points after scoring three goals to Jubilo’s two. Jubilo defender Cho-Byung Kuk scored the first of the match, a strong header from a corner on 12 minutes leaving goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi with no chance of saving. However, the direction of the match shifted just before half-time, Toshiyuki Takagi first scoring with a diving header before Genki Omae then did the same three minutes after the restart to give S-Pa the lead. A virtuoso effort from Omae then sealed the result on 88 minutes. Substitute Naohira Takahara, held the ball up superbly on the S-Pa left under the strong challenge of Kuk, and he played the ball back to Omae on the corner of the 18-yard box. In one movement he removed the opportunity for Yuki Kobyashi and Sung-Dong Baek to make a challenge, and although it would have been simpler to have appealed for a penalty when rounding Mitsuro Chiyotanda, he poked home to put the game out of reach of Jubilo. Kosuke Yamamoto gave the visitors a greater measure of respectability when he scored in the 94th minute.

You can read the full match report of Gamba Osaka’s enthralling 3-2 comeback victory versus Kawasaki Frontale here.

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