J.League Division 1: Matchday Twelve Round-up

(Sanfrecce Hiroshima come from behind at the Big Arch to defeat Vissel Kobe 3-2, and Sanfre moved above Shimizu S-Pulse into second place in Division One on goal difference)

The Big Arch witnessed a Sanfrecce Hiroshima side in command of all but the scoreline until two strikes in the last six minutes gave them a deserved 3-2 victory over Vissel Kobe. Aware that taking three points would close the gap on first placed Vegalta Sendai to two points at least temporarily, Hiroki Miuzmoto gave Sanfre a twelfth minute lead from Yojiro Takahagi’s corner, the goal owing much to failures in Vissel’s man-to-man system. The delivery was intended for Naoki Ishihara who had run to the near post who may have connected with the faintest of touches, but Mizumoto was left alone eight yards from goal to volley home, Vissel’s Lee Kwang-Seon and Kunie Kitamoto seemingly both taking positions next to Kazuhiko Chiba and unaware which player they should each have been marking.

Despite further opportunities to take the lead, however, the scoreline remained the same until fourteen minutes from time, Vissel finding an equaliser through Takuya Nozawa who netted his third in the 2012 J.League campaign. The 30 year-old midfielder would be the first to admit that it was entirely unintentional, as his forty yard free-kick eight yards infield sailed over a line of players, Lee Kwang-Seon deceiving Shusuke Nishikawa with his attempted header and the ball bouncing past the Sanfre goalkeeper inside the right upright.

Ryota Morioka may then have thought that he had allowed Vissel to steal all three points as he turned in fellow substitute Hideo Tanaka’s low cross from close range on 81 minutes. A cute back-heel from Keijiro Ogawa close to the touchline found Nozawa, and he spotted Tanaka’s run behind Kazuyuki Morisaki and Hiroki Mizumoto into the penalty area. Tanaka squared the ball across the six yard area to allow Morioka the easiest of finishes.

It only took three minutes before Sanfre found a leveller of their own, a well-worked team goal ending in Noaki Ishihara slotting the ball low to Kenta Tokushige’s left for a scoreline of 2-2. Ryota Moriwaki, charging through midfield from the halfway line, fed Yojiro Takahagi, and his first-time pass with the outside of his right boot was delivered to the feet of Toshihiro Aoyama. Aoyama’s throughball made its way past a maze of defenders, and Ishihara was on hand to successfully complete the move.

Moriwaki ended the scoring in the first minute of added time with an assured finish into the bottom right corner, evadng the challenges of both Lee Kwang-Seon and Kunie Kitamoto to sidefoot past a diving Tokushige. The result moves Sanfre into second place in the table, above Shimizu S-Pulse by way of a superior goal difference.

One of the more surprising results of the weekend came in the form of a goalless draw between Yokohama F-Marinos and Gamba Osaka at the Nissan Stadium. Marinos, who are unbeaten for a calendar month and have scored ten times in that time, hosted a Gamba side who had not recorded a clean sheet in any competition in 2012, and were in control of a match in which they had seventeen attempts on goal to the visitors’ seven, though Yuji Nakazawa may consider himself fortunate to see his header into his own net ruled out for what was judged to be a push from Gamba’s Sota Nakazawa. Yuji Ono came closest to breaking the deadlock for Marinos from open play, a left-footed drive drawing an outstanding reflex save from Atsushi Kimura after a deft piece of skill from Marquinhos found the forward in space, while Shunsuke Nakamura’s spot-kick hit the top of the crossbar, referee Jumpei Iida correctly pointing to the spot for Daiki Niwa’s trip on Manabu Saito, though the midfielder’s reaction to the challenge was wholly unsavoury.

Jubilo Iwata scored all seven goals at the Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium, thrashing Albirex Niigata 6-1 in a result which led to the home side parting ways with manager Hisashi Kurosaki. Only seven minutes had elapsed when Cho Byung-Kuk scored the first, a Baek Sung-Dong corner flicked on at the near post that Masaaki Higashiguchi failed to clear, and Cho was the first to react in the ensuing goalmouth melee to thump into the net.

Ryoichi Maeda supplemented Jubilo’s lead eight minutes later, another strike from close range coming when the 30-year old frward had found an overlapping Baek on the right, Maeda then continuing his run past a lazy Naoki Ishikawa to end the move he began on halfway.

Two yellow cards for Kim Jin-Su within the space of twelve first-half minutes reduced Albi to ten men just before the interval, and the Shizuoka side ran rampant in the second period. Yuki Kobayashi’s attempted flick across Higashiguchi took a deflection via Naoya Kikuchi into the bottom right corner to make it 3-0, and although a Jubilo own goal from Seiya Fujita’s set piece may ordinarily have given the home side some hope of a fightback, Takuya Matsuura’s desired cross on 68 minutes from outside the 18-yard box was trandformed into a right-footed lob into the right corner, the Albi goalkeeper caught flat-footed waiting for a Maeda header which never came.

Maeda did score his second of the match and fifth of the season eleven minutes from time, Matsuura’s low ball from the right this time turned home by the forward, and five became six as the 90 minutes expired, Hiroki Yamada finding enough space after bewitching Naoya Kikuchi in the penalty area to beat Higashiguchi at his near post.

Albi’s search for a new manager cannot begin soon enough, a troubling lack of attacking quality highlighted by having scored only seven goals and not winning a single game in front of their loyal home support. Highlights can be found here.

With Vegalta Sendai kicking-off three hours later, Shimizu S-Pulse had the opportunity to take pole position in the league at least for a short time, but they were denied by a strong Urawa Red Diamonds performance at the Saitama Stadium 2002. In a first-half which saw Popo clear the bar with a shot from distance, Yuki Abe potentially denied a penalty after being pulled back by Yasuhiro Hiraoka, and then a beautifully flighted Tadaaki Hirakawa cross not converted by Marcio Richardes, the Reds deservedly took the lead three minutes before the break. Yosuke Kashiwagi’s corner was sent into the penalty area, and aided by a terrible piece of defending from Taisuke Murumatsu, Abe was able to score at the second attempt. A poor day for S-Pa was compounded by Alex Brosque being shown a red card ten minutes into the second half, picking up his second booking of the day for a poor challenge on Richardes, making this the second time the Australian midfielder has been sent off the field in a month. Click this link for Yuki Abe’s goal.

A third success in four J.League matches helped Kawasaki Frontale climb to seventh place in the division, Omiya Ardija this time the victims in a 2-0 result at the NACK5 Stadium. Ryota Oshima scored Frontale’s first midway through the second-half after patient play in midfield, stringing together five passes before Jumpei Kusukami saw his shot blocked by Kosuke Kikuchi, Oshima steering home the rebound. Kusukami was then in the right place to volley the second five minutes later, Yuki Saneto leaping superbly to head a Kengo Nakamura delivery back across goal for the 24-year old midfielder to score.

Kashima Antlers had their biggest J.League win in over ten years, a 7-0 demolition of a pitiable Consadole Sapporo side at the Kashima Soccer Stadium consigning a 7-2 scoreline against Albirex Niigata in 2005 to the dustbin. Seven different names appeared on the scoresheet, the first of which was Daiki Iwamasa inside ten minutes, Shinzo Koroki stroking a cross into the box which the defender nodded past a stationary Takahiro Takagi. Two more were added in the opening 45 minutes, Yuya Osako stepping up to convert a penalty having been wrestled to the ground by Jade North with a quarter of an hour played, and then Osako and Iwamasa combined to tee up Kazuya Yamamura to fire home from fourteen yards.

There was no let up for Consa in the second period. On the sixty-minute mark, Shinzo Koroki took advantage after Yasushi Endo’s initial strike had been well-saved by Takagi, and then with fifteen minutes remaining Koroki turned provider with a clever back heel to find Masashi Motoyama all alone eight yards out. Juninho beat Kazuki Kushibiki all too easily on the left-wing to turn inside the defender and place the ball to Takagi’s left inside the last eight minutes, and then Endo rounded off the scoring with a shot across Takagi from Juninho’s pass in the last minute of normal time. The result leaves Consadole not only staring at an immediate return to Division 2, but the possibility of recording the lowest points total in top-flight history. All seven goals can be found at this link.

Please click the following link for a full match report and highlights of Vegalta Sendai 4 Nagoya Grampus 0.

Back-to-back league victories for the first time in 2012 allowed Kashiwa Reysol to move five points clear of the relegation places, downing Cerezo Osaka 2-1 at the Kincho Stadium. Reysol were a goal behind ten minutes before the interval, Cerezo breaking from a Sun Kings corner, and Kempes timed his run to perfection to latch on to a Branquinho through-ball, outpacing the covering Masato Kudo to finish left-footed past Takanori Sugeno.

Two crosses from ever-marauding full-back Hiroki Sakai did the damage for the visitors, however, on 63 minutes swinging a ball over for Leandro Domingues to nod home as Kim Jin-Hyeon committed to punch a ball he couldn’t reach, and then three minutes later, collecting the ball on halfway, he drove past Masato Kurogi with consummate ease to square inside the penalty area for Junya Tanaka to seal the points.

Sagan Tosu were on course for their first league victory away from the comforts of the Best Amenity Stadium, holding a 2-0 over FC Tokyo at the Ajinomoto Stadium with a quarter of an hour remaining. Sagan had not conceded more than one goal in any Division One fixture, but substitute Kazuma Watanabe scored an hat-trick within thirteen minutes in a remarkable comeback for the Gas to ensure that a prospective title challenge remains on track.

Kota Mizunuma and then Yohei Toyoda scored their third and fourth goals of the season respectively to give the visitors what appeared to be a comfortable margin, but the 25-year old Gas forward had other ideas, taking his own tally to four in Division 1, the first of his three strikes a particular highlight on 75 minutes.

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