J.League Division 1: Matchday Thirteen Round-up

(Highlights from the Toyota Stadium as Cerezo Osaka defeated Nagoya Grampus for their third away win of the season, putting them level on points with the Nagoya side)

A week after Sagan Tosu had been the unwilling victims of an FC Tokyo comeback at the Ajinomoto Stadium, and their thirst for a first J.League victory away from the Best Amenity Stadium remained unquenched, they inflicted the same punishment on Gamba at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium, Naoyuki Fujita scoring with the last touch of the game to leave the away support in raptures.

It looked an improbable result for much of the tie, Gamba’s two goal lead with one quarter of the match still to play not adequately reflecting their almost total control of the fixture. Takahiro Futagawa put the home side in front early on, Rafinha shutting down a dallying Daisuke Niwa close to his own penalty area, and his cross was controlled by the 31-year old midfielder on his knee before he thumped a volley past Taku Akahoshi. Although Gamba could not make their domination pay, Yasuyuki Konno finding the woodwork with a header from close range among several spurned opportunities, a 67th minute finish from Akihiro Sato looked to have put the result beyond any doubt. Yasuhito Endo was the creative force behind the strike, and his ball across the face of goal met with Akihiro Sato’s outstretched boot to give Gamba the comfort of a two goal lead.

Fujita, however, provided the impetus for the fightback, and less than sixty seconds later Sagan were just a single goal behind once more. His long throw from the right met with Yohei Toyoda’s glancing header, the ball clipping the inside of the left upright and bouncing into the net. Fujita then scored what earlier had seemed the unlikeliest of equalisers with a glorious strike from 22 yards, curling a right-footed shot first-time into the top right corner.

With Gamba trying to force a third goal and committing additional players to the attack deep into stoppage time, Akahoshi punched a corner clear, and a superb tackle allowed Kim Min-Woo to advance fully fifty yards with two teammates in tow and just two Gamba defenders to beat. He chose to lay the ball off to Fujita on his flank, and he pushed the ball low to Atsushi Kimura’s left to give his side the victory, leaving several Gamba players prostrate while Yoon Jong-Hwan celebrated the unexpected victory with his staff. While the Suita outfit have a game in lieu, they are now six points behind sixteenth place and face an enormous challenge in attempting to climb clear of a potential relegation battle. Sagan’s three points puts them in eighth position and just a win away from fourth, and they next meet Kawasaki Frontale at home on 16 June.

Friday’s second match pitted Nagoya Grampus against Cerezo Osaka at the Toyota Stadium, and Cerezo pulled themselves level on points with Grampus courtesy of a 49th minute strike from Kempes. Kim Bo-Kyung will be credited with an assist, but it was a stroke of good fortune that his mishit shot landed at the feet of the Brazilian striker to finish from eight yards.

Consadole Sapporo seem resigned to their fate as they slipped to their fourth defeat in a row and eleventh overall, this time suffering a 3-1 reversal against Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the Sapporo Atsubetsu Park Stadium. The upshot for Sanfre was a move into second place in the table and cutting the deficit behind league leaders Vegalta Sendai to two points. Consa, meanwhile, are on course to finish the 2012 J.League season with a total of no more than eleven points, a record low in the top flight of Japanese football by a quite considerable margin.

Sanfreece’s first, coming on 21 minutes, was Hisato Sato’s tenth goal of the season, the 30-year old striker currently leading the J.League scoring charts and one of only two Sanfre players making the top 20. Toshihiro Aoyama, so often at the heart of his team’s build-up play, won the ball on halfway, galloping to the edge of the penalty area before Yojiro Takahagi pushed his pass into Sato’s path, who finished into the bottom left corner.

Aoyama and Takahagi were both involved in the second six minutes later, a delightful angled pass from the central midfielder allowing Takahagi to control and turn, laying the ball off for an unattended Satoru Yamagishi to drive low into the net from eighteen yards.

Hopes of a Consadole fightback were raised when Yoshihiro Uchimura arrowed a drive beyond Shusaku Nihikawa’s dive shortly after the interval, but Sanfre confirmed the result seven minutes from the end of play as Koji Morisaki’s twenty yard free-kick found a hole between Jade North and Yasuaki Okamoto in the Consadole wall, leaving Takahiro Takagi no time to get across his line.

Kawasaki Frontale handed Vegalta Sendai their second loss of the season at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium, and made it five wins in seven matches to leave themselves in seventh place going into the international break.

Yu Kobayashi had seen a close range effort meet in a fine save from Takuto Hayashi, who then pushed a Kengo Nakamura free-kick against his own crossbar and away, before a slick passing move around the Vegalta penalty area allowed Kobayashi to run across Makoto Kakuda and turn in right-footed at an angle twenty minutes into the first period.

Frontale’s lead lastedmerely nly four minutes as Kobayashi’s misdirected clearance at the edge of his own box fell to Shingo Tomita 23 yards out, and he cracked a low shot which Yohei Nishibe should have saved but couldn’t push around the left upright. The visitors then had the advantage ten minutes into the second period, Toshihiro Matsushita’s low cross to a waiting Wilson resulting in a superb lob which he guided beyond a helpless Nishibe into the top left corner.

Just over 16,000 supporters saw Frontale level matters nearly as quickly as the visitors, Kyohei Noborizato outpacing Jiro Kamata to a Renato pull back six yards from goal as the match entered its final half hour, and at the death Takuro Yajima found space between Vegalta substitutes Kodai Watanabe and Hiroaki Ukuno to head Akito Fukumori’s curling left-footed cross past Hayashi, ending Vegalta’s undefeated record away from the Yurtec Stadium in J.League competition.

Shimizu S-Pulse and Yokohama F-Marinos played out a goalless draw at the Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira, six shots apiece a major contributory factor to the outcome and the result perhaps little surprise for the two lowest scoring teams in the top half of the division. S-Pulse goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi pulled off a stunning save to prevent Masashi Oguro from putting Marinos in front with a diving header, while Naohiro Takahara and Marquinhos came close for S-Pa and their guests respectively. The single point dropped S-Pulse dropped to fourth place, the home side having scored only two goals in four J.League matches, and after winning four games on the bounce Marinos’ momentum appears to have stalled in recording two successive 0-0 draws.

A Yamaha Stadium crowd of nearly 11,000 was treated to the sight of Jubilo Iwata scoring four against Omiya Ardija without reply, a result for which Squirrels manager Jun Suzuki paid with his job. Jubilo became the first Division 1 side to score thirty goals this season, with eighteen of those coming in May, and now sit third in the table.

After Yuki Fukaya had half-cleared a Baek Sung-Song cross away from the goalline, skipper Hiroki Yamada steered a sidefooted shot into Takashi Kitano’s goal at the near post inside ten minutes. Naoki Hatta then proved impervious to two Carlinhos efforts from distance, before Ryoichi Maeda made it two with half an hour played, Rodrigo Souto’s pass into the striker’s feet culminating in a neat exchange with Baek and Maeda volleying into the bottom right corner.

The second half was seconds old when Jubilo made it three, a flowing move involving Souto, Maeda and Yamada ending with Takuya Matsuura’s bullet header, and after Rafael had seen a swerving effort cleared off the line, Kosuke Kikuchi was very unfortunate to see his attempted block of Maeda’s shot take a wicked deflection and loop over his own goalkeeper to give Maeda a brace.

Please click this link to find a full match report for Vissel Kobe 1 Kashima Antlers 2.

Kashiwa Reysol mascot Rey-kun (Courtesy of a contributor)

A change of manager for Albirex Niigata provided no immediate benefit in terms of results, as Nobuhiro Ueno saw his charges downed 2-0 by Reysol at the Kashiwa Hitachi Soccer Stadium. Takanori Sugeno could only watch as Yusuke Murakami’s fierce drive flew past his right upright with fifteen minutes on the clock, but the Sun Kings’ goalkeeper was barely troubled after that, and the best chances fell to the home side.

Sugeno’s opposite number gifted the hosts the opening goal, Leandro Domingues free-kick punched into his own net by Masaaki Higashiguchi, but Albi’s goalkeeper was otherwise in inspired form as he saved brilliantly from first Jorge Wagner, and then both Leandro Domingues and Masakatsu Sawa. Reysol had to wait until four minutes from time to be sure of the win, Masakatsu Sawa slicing past Isao Homma and coolly finishing to give the Sun Kings their third consecutive league victory. The Division One title holders are now three points off eighth place with a game in hand.

The final contest of Matchday 13 was FC Tokyo versus Urawa Red Diamonds, and you can read Sean Carroll’s full report of the game here.

Kashiwa Reysol players greet their home supporters (Courtesy of a contributor)

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