J.League Division 1: Matchday Seven Round-up

(Highlights of Jubilo Iwata’s 1-0 win versus Yokohama F-Marinos, including Hiroki Yamada’s sensational 36th minute strike)

A sixth defeat in seven matches has left Consadole Sapporo’s prospects of remaining in the top-tier of Japanese club football looking bleak even at this early stage of the season. Alone at the bottom of the table with a solitary point, Consa looked to be heading to their first victory of the 2012 J.League season, taking a 2-0 lead in at half-time at the Sapporo Dome against Kawasaki Frontale, following goals from Shunsuke Maeda and Jumpei Takaki. Maeda’s header on 9 minutes from a Yasuaki Okamoto cross and a another header from Takaki gave the hosts a firm cushion going into the second period, but Kengo Nakamura delivered on a Renato pass to reduce the deficit 12 minutes after the restart. Renato then converted a penalty in the 67th minute to level matters, his left-footed strike just too powerful for the unfortunate Ho-Seung Lee, who dived correctly to his left but could only push the ball on to the post and back into his goal.

Consa hearts were broken in the 88th minute. A long clearance from Yohei Nishibe was flicked on by Rui Komatsu to Takuro Yajima midway in Sapporo territory, who controlled and turned back to Komatsu. The 28-year old forward spotted Yusuke Tasaka on the edge of the penalty area, who flipped the ball over his shoulder into the 18-yard box, all the time closely marshalled by Takuma Hida. However, a clever backheel released Koji Yamase, who had slipped the wrong side of Kazuki Kushibiki, and while Yamase’s first touch took him to the right edge of the six yard box he unleashed a shot which found the roof of the net at the inside post.

Similar drama was played out at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, as the Antlers went into the break two goals in arrears, but subsequently overturned the scoreline to emerge 3-2 victors over Cerezo Osaka. Kashima should have taken the lead in this match, Yuya Osako found in space in the penalty area, but dawdling in possession he allowed Daisuke Takahashi time to recover and his shot was blocked by the left-back. Branquinho would then come close for the visitors, a Kempes backheel giving the Brazilian the opportunity to strike from 20 yards, and his effort with the outside of his right foot was narrowly wide of Hitoshi Sogahata’s left upright. Osako then wasted a further opportunity, an excellent cross low along the six yard line from Mitsuo Ogasawara met by the forward’s outstretched leg, but he could only divert his attempt straight into Jin-Hyeon Kim’s midriff with the goal gaping.

A move which began in the Cerezo defence enabled Bo-Kyung Kim to give Cerezo the lead, with Hiroshi Kiyotake heavily involved. Receiving the ball on halfway, the 22-year old midfield star passed short to Kim, who spun and fed Branquinho. Branquinho then delivered a pass to an advancing Kiyotake, who spotted Kim’s continued run and played a delightful ball first time to the South Korean international inside the penalty area. Kim took one touch before sending a left-footed shot beyond Sogahata across the angle. Hotaru Yamaguchi came agonisingly close to doubling Cerezo’s lead, another well-executed move leading to a fierce strike from 18 yards which left Sogahata well-beaten, but struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from the goalline, before Kim then added his and Cerezo’s second, this time largely an individual effort on the cusp of first-half stoppage time. Controlling a pass on the halfway line, he sped into the penalty area, squaring for Kempes who had only Sogahata to beat. The goalkeeper stayed tall and charged down Kempes’ attempted lob, but with five Antlers outfield players in the penalty area, the ball luckily rebounded to Kim who neatly volleyed the rebound with his left foot.

Kiyotake had a chance to further extend the lead early in the second period, a run from halfway on the Cerezo left culminating in a shot from 10 yards which found Sogahata’s gloves, but where a better option would have been to pull the ball back for an unmarked Kempes. It was a miss that would cost Cerezo dear. On 57 minutes Yasushi Endo crossed, and a poor punch from Jin-Hyeon Kim only found Dutra waiting at the edge of the penalty area. He controlled before sending the ball back over the goalkeeper and above two defenders into the top right of the Cerezo goal. Endo then fluffed a simple equalising chance, an excellent run to the goalline from Shinzo Kokori followed by an inviting pull back, but the attacking midfielder dragged his side-footed attempt wide of the left post. It would be Koroki instead who would level the scores, Dutra advancing in the right channel before crossing square for the forward to smash home without breaking his stride. Endo then completed the comeback with five minutes of normal time remaining. Daigo Nishi played a cross field ball to Endo on the left, his run taking him into the penalty area where he lashed a shot high past Kim’s hand at the near post.

Gamba Osaka ceded territory and possession to Shimizu S-Pulse, but found the victory to move them out of the bottom three, and were on course for their first clean sheet in all competitions in 2012 when a 93rd minute Alex strike prevented them from leaving with a 3-0 win at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium. Naohiro Takahara desperately unlucky not to give S-Pa a 1-0 lead, his lunge from a yard inches away from reaching a ball which was cleared off the goalline by Takuya Takei. It would instead be Takei who would score at the other end of the field after 20 minutes had been played, a drifting Yasuhito Endo cross from 10 yards inside the S-Pulse half only headed upwards by Calvin Jong A Pin, and Takei’s first-time volley would take a wicked deflection off the unfortunate defender, looping over Akihiro Hayashi and into the goal. Rafinha made it two seven minutes later after Akihiro Sato had been upended by an onrushing Hayashi in the penalty area. The poor spot kick was easily saved by the goalkeeper in attempting to atone for his error, but he only succeeded in pushing the ball out to the forward who lashed the ball into the net at the second attempt. The scoreline remained the same until the 81st minute, Akihiro Sato heading home a corner at the near post when surrounded by three stationary S-Pulse defenders. The home side spurned several further chances to make it four, and their failure to defend a free-kick properly proved their undoing when Alex added a consolation deep into stoppage time.

Kashiwa Reysol continue to be consistently inconsistent, well-beaten 3-1 away to Vissel Kobe at the Home’s Stadium. Failing to penalise Tatsuya Masushima for a push on Yuzo Tashiro 30 yards from goal, referee Ryuji Sato chose instead to whistle for a weak challenge by Naoya Kondo on Junya Tanaka in a much more dangerous position. Up stepped Takuya Nozawa with quarter of an hour played to bend the resulting free-kick over the Sun Kings’ wall and into the net via the left upright, goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno motionless on his line. Midfielder Masakatsu Sawa equalised shortly before the break, left-back Takahito Soma diverting the ball into his path in attempting to clear a cross from the Reysol left, and despite pressure from Kazumichi Takagi and Masahiko Inoha, his drive was well-placed to the left corner. Reysol forward Hideaki Kitajima could only place a header on to the cross bar when unmarked from six yards, and that would be as close as the reigning champions would come to taking the lead. A fabulous run from Soma and finish from Keijiro Ogawa gave home supporters cause for celebration with 84 minutes on the clock. Picking the ball up 25 yards inside his own half, he strode past Ryoichi Kurisawa, and at the edge of the penalty area played the perfect throughball for Ogawa to flick over Sugeno and into the Reysol net. With Reysol pressing for an second, a third goal for Vissel was always a possibility and it duly came one minute into added time. A long crossfield ball was perfectly delivered to Takuya Nozawa on the right-wing, and his cross was headed goalwards by Ryota Morioka. Although Sugeno saved, he merely prodded the ball into the direction of Yuzo Tashiro, and he tapped home from short range to assure the home side of the points. Reysol are already twelve points behind league leaders Vegalta, and with an early exit from the AFC Champions League on the horizon, it could prove to be a difficult season for manager Nelsinho and his players.

Sagan Tosu continue to defy expectations and recorded their fourth victory in five matches at the Tosu Stadium to leave them in fifth place in the table, this time taking points off Albirex Niigata. Sagan could have been ahead as early as the fourth minute, a sweeping ball out of defence finding Tozin unmarked in the penalty area. Masaaki Higashiguchi came to claim but missed his punch, and only an excellent goalline clearance prevented the forward from giving the advantage to the home side. 18 minutes had passed when Albi’s Alan Mineiro curled a free-kick the wrong side of Taku Akahoshi’s left post, before Min-Woo Kim’s rapid spin and shot drifted inches wide of the post following good work on the Tosu right-wing by Yohei Toyoda. A good save was needed from Higashiguchi to palm a Naoyika Fujita free-kick behind for a corner in first half stoppage time, and chances continued to be created for both sides in the second period.

Bruno Lopes could easily have fallen over Fujita’s outstretched leg to claim a penalty for Albi with ten second-half minutes played, but he continued his run and fired a shot which Akahoshi beat away smartly at his near post. 25 minutes remained when Mineiro then struck the woodwork, before the introduction of Koki Kiyotake on 71 minutes was to effect the outcome of the match. The younger brother of Cerezo’s Hiroshi, he nearly made an instant impact when a left-footed shot drifted wide of the right upright, but the decisive contribution from the 21-year old ensued on 80 minutes after the midfielder delivered an incisive pass to Shohei Okada. Okada’s effort was repelled by Higashiguchi, but Tozin followed up to slam home off the underside of the crossbar and claim the victory for Sagan.

Yokohama F-Marinos’ sorry start to the season continued unabated after slipping to a 1-0 loss to Jubilo Iwata at the Yamaha Stadium, and the Marinos paid the price yet again for failing to take a number of chances which fell their way. The only goal of the game came courtesy of a superlative individual effort from Hiroki Yamada after 35 minutes. Hugging the left touchline, Kosuke Yamamoto clipped a pass between Yuzo Kobayashi and Seitaro Tomisawa to find Yamada, and his nimble feet enabled him to jink past a sliding Yuzo Kurihara. A quick change of direction enabled him to ghost around Tomisawa and Shingo Hyodo before he rifled a shot from the left edge of the penalty area past Hiroki Iikura’s dive at the near post. The best chances for the visiting team both came via Shunsuke Nakamura’s expert delivery, the first a cross from the right touchline which Masashi Oguro could only glance wide from five yards with Naoki Hatta beaten, before the Japanese football legend whipped in a corner which Kurihara headed goalward, Yamamoto volleying clear on the goalline. Substitute Manabu Saito did eventually find the net for Marinos, but he was fractionally offside when he succeeded in turning home Oguro’s attempted volley. Iwata’s victory means they now sit in third place, behind Nagoya Grampus on goal difference, the Marinos’ paltry four points by contrast leaving them in an alarming seventeen position.

Sanfrecce prevented Nagoya Grampus leaving the Hiroshima Big Arch with three points as Ryota Moriwaki’s 94th minute equaliser cancelled out Hayuma Tanaka’s 62nd minute strike, a result which keeps Sanfre in the top four after seven Division 1 matches. In the first half Jungo Fujimoto bent a free-kick narrowly wide for Grampus, and only a superbly timed challenge from Kazuhiko Chiba prevented Mu Kanazaki from a clear run on goal after a lofted ball from midfield had cleared the Sanfre defence. The legs of Shusaku Nishikawa then prevented Yoshizumi Ogawa from giving Grampus the lead, but Ogawa was culpable in not attempting to lift the ball over the goalkeeper. Sanfrecce’s Hisato Sato couldn’t generate sufficient power on his header from Satoru Yamagishi’s curling cross to cause Seigo Narazaki any problems, and Sato perhaps could have done better with a snap shot following a low cross from Mikic which Narazaki beat away close to his left upright.

Tanaka’s goal came after several robust challenges from Sanfrecce’s combative six-man midfield, any one of which could have resulted in a free-kick. The ball eventually made its way out wide to Danilson on the left-wing, and his hanging cross was headed back across the face of goal by Tanaka into the bottom left corner. Hiroki Mizumoto flashed a volley a foot wide from distance for the home side after Wilson had only half-cleared a cross, and Keiji Tamada nearly levelled from 18 yards after a jinking run from Yojiro Takahagi across the penalty area. Nishikawa kept Sanfrecce in the match with a reaction stop from Tulio Tanaka’s powerful header, before Sato again couldn’t beat Narazaki after failing to connect with a header from close range following a lovely lobbed cross from Ishihara. Instead, parity was restored by Morikawi’s thunderous last-gasp strike, deceiving Naoshi Nakamura before switching feet and driving into the top-left corner off the underside of the crossbar.

Omiya Ardija took the spoils in the 2012 season’s first Saitama Derby, downing Urawa Red Diamonds 2-0 at the NACK5 Stadium, for which you can read Sean Carroll’s excellent match report here.

Finally, my full match report of Vegalta Sendai’s comprehensive victory over FC Tokyo can be accessed via this link.

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