名古屋グランパス (Nagoya Grampus) 0 ベガルタ仙台 (Vegalta Sendai) 0

In a tight, tactically interesting affair light on entertainment, Nagoya Grampus limited their own attacking instincts and shackled Vegalta Sendai to record their first goalless draw of the 2012 campaign at the Toyota Stadium, and prevented Makoto Teguramori’s men from scoring for only the third time this season.

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J.League Division 1: Matchday Sixteen Round-up

Japan Under-23 national team player Kensuke Nagai continued his excellent form of late, scoring his eighth goal in sixteen J.League appearances and his sixth in four as his late equaliser at the Nissan Stadium gave Nagoya Grampus a share of the points against Yokohama F-Marinos. Having contributed more than a third of Grampus’s goals in Division 1 this season, his presence could be sorely missed during the London 2012 campaign, the 23-year old guaranteed to be absent for ties with Consadole Sapporo and Vissel Kobe, and depending on the progress of the Under-23 Samurai Blue, may also be unavailable for the 11 August fixture with Shimizu S-Pulse.

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セレッソ大阪 (Cerezo Osaka) 1 浦和レッドダイヤモンズ (Urawa Red Diamonds) 1

Yoichiro Kakitani deservedly equalised in the first minute of stoppage time to save Hiroshi Kiyotake from the least enjoyable of departures. With former Cerezo great and recent Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa an interested observer at the Nagai Stadium, Kiyotake left the field in the 81st minute to rapturous applause, frustrated at having been unable to help his teammates level the scores. Cerezo had been the match of an Urawa Red Diamonds team which began the day eleven places ahead, but it was a flurry of late substitutions from Sérgio Soares which finally produced the merited equitable outcome in the game’s final minutes, most particularly that of Branquinho who replaced the FC Nuremberg-bound midfielder in the 81st minute.

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名古屋グランパス (Nagoya Grampus) 2 ジュビロ磐田 (Jubilo Iwata) 0

Two defensive lapses either side of the half-time break handed Jubilo Iwata their second consecutive defeat, goals from Jungo Fujimoto and Kensuke Nagai giving a competent but uninspiring Nagoya Grampus team the three points, and delivering a jolt to any championship pretensions the Shizuoka Prefecture side may have. Compounding Jubilo’s difficulties was the early enforced substitution of goalkeeper Naoki Hatta, damaging a finger after colliding with teammate Yuichi Komano inside seven minutes, and after lengthy treatment for what appeared to be either a dislocation or break, saw him replaced by Akihiko Takeshige, whose contribution would prove critical to the outcome of this contest.

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J.League Division 1: Matchday Fourteen Round-up

Vegalta Sendai maintained their grip on J.League Division 1 with victory at the Yurtec Stadium, aided by an inept Consadole Sapporo team whom they dominated across the ninety minutes, 24 shots and 13 corners doing little justice to the scale of their superiority. Consa forward Hideo Oshima may have given the guests a surprise lead in the first-half as he shot wide of Takuto Hayashi’s post from close range, but otherwise it was his opposite number Tetsu Sugiyama who was much the busier of the two goalkeepers, making a fine save from Naoki Sugai as he palmed the right-back’s fierce drive over his crossbar before diving to push Wilson’s left-footed half-volley behind for a corner. The first goal arrived late into stoppage time in the opening period, Kazunari Okayama unable to stay on his feet to leave Wilson to cross, his fellow forward Atsushi Yanagisawa seemingly diverting the ball wide until Masaki Yamamoto’s miscontrol sent the ball spinning into the bottom right corner. There was no question over whether Yanagisawa should be credited for Vegalta’s second, a fine volley two minutes from the restart completing a move in which Shingo Tomita and Yoskiaki Ota were involved.

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セレッソ大阪 (Cerezo Osaka) 1 サンフレッチェ広島 (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) 4

(Highlights of all the goals from the KINCHO Stadium as Sanfrecce Hiroshima cantered to a 4-1 win against Cerezo Osaka, and remained in touch with league leaders Vegalta Sendai)

A cynical foul from the unexpected quarter of Toshihiro Aoyama forced Hiroshi Kiyotake to limp from the pitch with a quarter of an hour of this match to play, and depending upon the severity of the injury sustained may have played his last of what would otherwise have been his penultimate J.League appearance at the KINCHO Stadium. Of equal, if not greater concern to manager Sérgio Soares is how to replace the young midfielder at a time in which Cerezo look likely to be drawn into the relegation fight which has already engulfed their city rivals Gamba. Kiyotake was his side’s outstanding player as he displayed his full repertoire of two-footed passing in a performance brimming with wit and invention, and had Kempes not once again flattered to deceive in attack, Kiyotake, Kim Bo-Kyung and Yoichiro Kakitani could each have recorded assists and provided a more respectable outcome to this encounter.

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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)