AFC Champions League: Round of 16 live-blog – 울산 현대 (Ulsan Hyundai) v 柏レイソル (Kashiwa Reysol)

0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol are one of Japan’s two sole remaining participants in the 2012 AFC Champions League following Nagoya Grampus’ exit in the Round of 16 stage yesterday. The Sun Kings travel to the Big Crown to take on Ulsan Hyundai, unbeaten winners in Group F and the only side to defeat FC Tokyo at the group stage, running out 1-0 winners in the battle for group supremacy on Matchday Six.

Reysol, meanwhile, lost two of their three away games, their inconsistency in this competition mirroring their form in the J.League, and progress was only secured courtesy of their first win on their travels in Korea against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Reysol will be aiming to better the record of Japanese teams meeting K-League sides at this stage of the competition. Since the Round of 16 was introduced in 2009, five of six have been won by teams from the Land of the Morning Calm.

Former Gamba and Cerezo Osaka midfielder Akihiro Ienaga, who also spent some time at Oita Trinita before his move to Spanish side RCD Mallorca, is on the bench for the Horangi. The 25-year old midfielder moved to Ulsan for the 2012 season on loan.

0 Min: Ulsan Hyundai – Kim S-G; Lee J-S, Kang M-S, Kwak T-H; Lee H, Kim S-Y, Kim Y-S, Go S-K, Juan Velez; Kim S-W, Lee K-H

Substitutes – Kim Y-K; Choi J-S, Kang J-O; Kim D-S, Park S-I, Ienaga; Maranhao

0 Min: Kashiwa Reysol – Sugeno; Kondo, Sakai, Masushima, Nasu; Otani, Leandro Domingues, Jorge Wagner, Kurisawa; Tanaka, Kudo

Substitutes – Inada; Hashimoto, Fujita; Sawa, An Y-K, Barada; Hayashi

0 Min: We’re about six minutes from kick-off at a practically empty Big Crown, a very disappointing turnout for what is deemed to be Asia’s premier club tournament. While the skies in Ulsan are overcast, temperatures of 18 degrees and light winds provide almost ideal playing conditions for football.

0 Min: The players are on the pitch, and it will be Ulsan to get this tie going. Ulsan are in blue, Reysol in their standard yellow kit.

2 Min: Lee Keun-Ho breaks down the left wing as a Tatsuya Masushima long throw is cleared, and Kim Shun-Wook turns inside Daisuke Nasu. His touch is too strong, and Reysol are able to recover.

4 Mins: Leandro Domingues bursts past three players in midfield before Kang Min-Soo brings his run to an end for a throw.

6 Mins: Wagner wins the ball on halfway from a dallying Kwak Tae-Kwi, and is free on the left. He makes the shooting angle more difficult for himself as he takes the ball to the edge of the area, and it’s an easy take for Kim Seung-Gyu.

8 Mins: Kwak Tae-Hwi takes a free kick long downfield, aiming for Kim Shin-Wook. The striker meets the ball, and under pressure from Naoya Kondo, Lee Keun-Ho lifts his effort over Sugeno but inches over the crossbar.

9 Mins: Ryoichi Kurisawa finds Junya Tanaka twenty yards from goal, who lays off to Domingues. He turns and fires a snap-shot straight at Kim Seung-Gyu.

11 Mins: A good pass from Hidekazu Otani to Tanaka sees the forward clipped, and the official blows for the offence. He may have played the advantage with Sakai loitering on the right.

12 Mins: A lovely set piece from Domingues finds Kudo, but he can’t crane his neck enough to direct his header on target.

15 Mins: Beyond the opportunity offered to Lee Keun-Ho, it’s a promising first quarter of an hour for Reysol, alert in defence and matching the Horangi in midfield. Certainly they are appear technically the better side to this point.

17 Mins: A second long free-kick from Kwak Tae-Hwi is won in the air by the home side, but Reysol clear following-up.

18 Mins: A cross from the left is delivered by Kang Min-Soo, flicked on by Kim Shin-Wook and Lee Keun-Ho is in on goal. It’s a superb save from Takanori Sugeno, who is as big as possible in the Reysol goal to stop Lee volleying home from point blank range.

20 Mins: The one deficiency Reysol suffer from is an inability to deal with a direct approach and under an aerial threat. Ulsan are attempting to exploit this as often as possible, Kim Shin-Wook winning most headers inside the Sun Kings’ penalty area.

21 Mins: Hiroki Sakai goes into the book.

22 Mins: Mid-way through the opening period, it’s Ulsan Hyundai 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0.

24 Mins: Reysol have begun to struggle after a fairly positive first 15 minutes, Leandro Domingues embarking on another mazy run but with little support and no passing options he is tackled. Lee Keun-Ho then has his shirt pulled by Naoya Kondo, a giving away a free-kick in an advantageous position for Ulsan.

25 Mins: The free-kick is bent to Kim Shin-Wook, who wins the ball easily again, but his header is safely into the arms of Takanori Sugeno.

28 Mins: Juan Velez is winning most of the possession in midfield. Otani and in particular Domingues need to make more of an impression in the tackle.

32 Mins: A cross is met by Lee Keun-Ho this time, but his flick on is gathered by Sugeno before Kim Shin-Wook can shoot.

33 Mins: Jorge Wanger is incredibly wasteful on a rare foray into the Ulsan half. He has two players in space to pass two around the Horangi’s penalty area, but finds neither. The ball is returned to him, but he then attempts a flick which fails to come off and Ulsan can bring the ball out of defence.

36 Mins: Facing away from goal and attempting to control a Lee Ho throughball on his chest, Naoya Kondo is climbing over the back of Lee Keun-Ho, and Ulsan have a free-kick just twenty yards from goal.

36 Mins: Kwak Tae-Hwi awaits, but slams his shot into the face of Hideakazu Otani in the Reysol wall, who stays down for some treatment after being poleaxed by the strike.

41 Mins: Ulsan have a further chance to take the lead. Yet another long ball out of defence causes Reysol problems. It’s missed by Kim Shin-Wook, but Sakai leaves Kim Seung-Yong unattended at the back post, and running on to the bouncing ball he powers his header over the net.

43 Mins: Lee Keun-Ho is down near halfway, crumpling under a challenge from Hidekazu Otani. The official doesn’t signal for any offence, and Keun-Ho is on his feet after a minute or so.

45 Mins: Two minutes of added time to be played at the end of a first period in which Ulsan have dominated and should be leading.

45 Mins+2: The time added on passes without incident.

HT: Ulsan Hyundai 0 Kashiwa Reysol 0

HT: Manager Nelsinho has a number of issues to resolve are Reysol to progress to the quarter-finals. Wagner, wasteful in possession, is providing little protection in midfield and to his left-back being constantly drawn into the centre of midfield and allowing Lee Keun-Ho almost free reign on the right. Reysol also show few signs of having equipped themselves adequately to deal with crosses, Kim Shin-Wook winning headers at will for his forward partner.

HT: No changes to report for either side as the players return to the field. Can Reysol find a way of neutralising Kim Shin-Wook’s aerial presence in this second period?

46 Mins: Domingues and Tanaka get the second half going.

47 Mins: Domingues crosses along the six yard box, but it’s fractionally too strong for Kudo to control and shoot.

48 Mins: CROSSBAR! Ulsan first hit the crossbar and then Sugeno makes an excellent stop on the line. Masushima can only head backwards in attempting to clear a cross, and it falls to Go Seul-Ki, who shoots across Naoya Kondo, hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing out. Kim Shin-Wook tries to head into the net from the rebound, but Sugeno reacts quickly to beat the ball away.

49 Mins: Wagner’s cross can’t find a Kashiwa Reysol foot to turn an excellent low delivery into the net.

51 Mins: Sakai protests at being penalised for a challenge on Lee Keun-Ho near the Reysol goalline, but it’s definitely an infringement. The official spots an offence as the free-kick is struck, and Reysol can clear.

55 Mins: GOAL! They have been threatening all match, and Kim Shin-Wook gives Ulsan Hyundai a deserved lead, but it comes as a result of quite dreadful Reysol defending. Otani misplaces a pass which Lee Keun-Ho intercepts on the edge of the Sun Kings eighteen yard box, and he floats a cross for an entirely unmarked Kim Shin-Wook to head home, Masushima and Kondo either side of the striker but neither challenging for the header.

55 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 1 Kashiwa Reysol 0

57 Mins: With Reysol now forced onto the offensive, a swerving shot from Naoya Kondo is only inches away from the right upright from twenty yards.

59 Mins: Domingues is shown a yellow card, first penalised for some tugging of the shirt on Velez, and then shown a reaction to some words which came his way from the Ulsan midfielder.

61 Mins: So, so close to an equaliser for Reysol. Tanaka turns superbly inside the penalty area, and manages to find a cross which is just too far from Leandro Domingues’ outstretched boot four yards from goal. Reysol have been transformed since they went behind.

64 Mins: A foul on Kim Shin-Wook on forty yards allows Ulsan some breathing space. Kim wins the subsequent header, but it doesn’t bother Sugeno, bouncing well off target.

65 Mins: Junya Tanaka must score. And doesn’t. Onside in the penalty area from Domingues pass, he beats the onrushing Kim Seung-Gye, but then can’t beat Lee Jae-Seong who clears off the goalline. The scores should be level.

66 Mins: Maranhao replaces Kim Seung-Yong in the first substitution of the contest.

67 Mins: GOAL! Reysol have been the better since the goal, if certainly not the match, and he heads home a Tatsuya Masushima long throw into the right corner of the net.

67 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 1 Kashiwa Reysol 1

69 Mins: Jorge Wagner then sees a raking effort pushes wide by Kim Seung-Gyu, the corner wasted as the referee spots some pushing in the penalty area.

70 Mins: GOAL! A body blow for Kashiwa Reysol. Naoya Kondo tries to divert Lee Ho’s low cross behind for a goal kick, but it’s rolling over the line as Sugeno dives to stop its momentum. The Reysol players are furious, and the camera angles aren’t helpful from the replays, but it looks like the ball may have crossed the line. The Sun Kings need to reply all over again.

70 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 2 Kashiwa Reysol 1

75 Mins: An unnecessary challenge from Leandro Domingues on goalkeeper Kim under a ball he was never going to win sees the Ulsan stopper require some treatment.

76 Mins: Just under fifteen minutes left to play. Can Reysol find a second equaliser to force this game into extra-time?

77 Mins: Hidekazu Otani has played his last with Masakatsu Sawa entering the fray.

78 Mins: Junya Tanaka takes the wrong option, shooting from 20 yards straight at Kim Seung-Gyu as Sawa was free inside the penalty area.

78 Mins: Tanaka landed on Lee Ho’s ankle as returned to the turf from his shot, and he sees in a great deal of pain as he is removed from the field on a stretcher.

80 Mins: As we enter the last ten minutes, all the pressure is from Reysol. Masukawa has a long throw headed away, Wagner shooting first-time on the rebound, and deflected behind for a corner.

83 Mins: Lee Keun-Ho, who has spurned a number of chances to score, is put through one-on-one with Sugeno, and should score, but the goalkeeper claims the ball at the forward’s feet. Reysol are still in this, just.

85 Mins: Sawa should score the second for Reysol, but can’t force the ball past Kim Young-Sam who blocks. A lovely short pass from Tanaka allowed Domingues to shoot, which Kim Seung-Gyu manages to push just behind Masato Kudo following up. Sawa can’t find the finish.

88 Mins: GOAL! Game over. A pass from Go Seul-Ki is met with a lovely flick from Kim Shin-Wook, and Lee Keun-Ho is finally able to finish with a volley into the bottom left corner.

88 Mins: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 1

90 Mins: There will be four additional minutes to play. Three successive efforts from Reysol are all cleared away.

90 Mins+2: GOAL! Junya Tanaka thunders a strike into the top left corner from a very tight ankle, after good work from Leandro Domingues with his back to goal and a fine pass from Sawa to find the Brazilian. Some hope for the Sun Kings.

90 Mins+2: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 2

90 Mins+4: It’s just not enough for Reysol. Referee blows his whistle for full-time, and it’s all over at the Big Crown.

FT: Ulsan Hyundai 3 Kashiwa Reysol 2

FT: There might be some controversy over the second Ulsan goal, and there will be some debate as to whether the ball fully crossed the line, but it took Reysol to go behind before they were able to rouse themselves for this contest. Both sides spurned a number of opportunities in front of goal, but there’s little doubt as to which team deserved to win the contest on merit. Manager Nelsinho now faces the same task as that awaiting Dragan Stojkovic, finding away of lifting his team away from the bottom half of the table and then attempting to qualify for the 2013 competition.

FT: I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s coverage. You’ll find a full match report on Football Japan later today.


The Daily Round-up

The Asahi Shimbun reports that J.League Division 2 side Yokohama FC has parted company with manager Yasuyuki Kishino. Kishino, who was appointed in 2010, led his side to an 18th placed finished in the 2011 season, and a single point from three matches so far this season has led to his dismissal. Kishino is the first J.League manager to lose his job this season. Head Coach Takaihro Taguchi has been appointed caretaker manager until the search for Kishino’s replacement has been completed.

Samurai Blue star and Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa had more reason than usual to celebrate in his appearance for Die Schawrzgelben on Saturday, the Asahi also notes. Kagawa netted the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Werder Bremen on his 23rd birthday to ensure table-topping Dortmund’s gap over second-placed Bayern Munich remained at five points, and helped Dortmund set a record unbeaten streak of 20 matches. Kagawa’s goal came in the 8th minute, and he nearly doubled his tally in the 24th minute, seeing Werder keeper Sebastian Mielitz palm his effort on to the post.

The Mainichi Shimbun leads with confirmation that 2012 AFC Champions League participants Kashiwa Reysol, Nagoya Grampus, Gamba Osaka and FC Tokyo have byes to the quarter-final stages of the 2012 J.League Cup. The tournament, for which entry is restricted to J.League Division 1 teams, sees the remaining 14 league teams split into two groups who play in a mini-league format, the winners and runners-up from both groups joining the Champions League teams in the last eight. The group stage commences tomorrow (20 March), with the final taking place on 3 November at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

And finally, the Yomiuri Shimbun focuses on the F.League, the top league for futsal in Japan. Nagoya Oceans have won the National Championships yet again, however Osaka came back from a goal down in a dramatic match at the Yoyogi National Gynasium to win 3-1 and secure second place in the tournament and their first medal-placing in two years, just a single point behind the eventual winners.

Former FC Yokohama manager Yasuyuki Kishino, who has been dismissed for poor performance. Kishino becomes the first manager to be fired by a J.League club this season (Image courtesy of

J.League Division One: Matchday Two Round-up

Cerezo took the spoils against city rivals Gamba, winning 2-1 in their first derby victory since 2003. The match appeared to be heading for a draw until the fourth and final minute of added time, when Kempes, benefiting from a significant height advantage over Akira Kaji, beat the right-back to Noriyuki Sakemoto’s cross and directed a powerful header past Yosuke Fujigaya in the Gamba goal.

Cerezo opening the scoring on 19 minutes, Bo-Hyung Kim playing a low pass to Branquinho on the edge of the Gamba penalty area. The attacking midfielder’s turn confused defender Sota Nakazawa, and advancing inside the box he struck a fine shot low beyond Fujigaya’s despairing dive. Gamba levelled matters eight minutes later, Rafinha’s perfectly executed free-kick from 25 yards rising over the Cerezo wall and bending into the right-hand corner of the net.

The result ensured new manager Jose Carlos Serrao suffered his third consecutive defeat and leaves Gamba still in search of their first points of the season in any competition. Serrao, who has already apologised to Gamba supporters following their disastrous performance at home in the humbling 3-0 2012 AFC Champions League defeat to Pohang Steelers, is largely acting as a placeholder for former Japanese international Wagner Lopes while he earns the necessary coaching credentials. Gamba’s long-serving manager Akira Nishino stepped down at the end of the 2011 season. Nishino’s legacy is a difficult one to follow, with an AFC Champions League, a J.League title, an Emperor’s Cup and two J.League Cups in the trophy cabinet, while only finishing outside the top 3 on two occasions in his decade-long tenure. However, if the sequence of performances and results continues to be sub-standard under Serrao, both he and assistant Lopes may come under pressure to step aside.

Vegalta Sendai made it two wins out of two in the J.League, downing Yokohama F-Marinos 2-0 at the Nissan Stadium before a crowd of nearly 20,000. There was a touch of good fortune for Vegalta’s opener, Hirko Iikura’s stunning reflex save from Naoya Tamura’s flicked header rebounding off Vegalta forward Wilson, and with Sendai defender Naoki Sugai’s attempted header misdirected straight into the air, Shingo Akamine was able to pounce with two minutes remaining until half-time. Vegalta’s second came as late as the 98th minute, Iikura merely succeeding in bringing down substitute Yuki Moto, and Yoshiaka Ota made no mistake from the penalty spot. Despite Iikura guessing correctly, Ota drove a superbly taken with a superbly taken penalty driven to the bottom left corner beyond the goalkeeper’s dive.

A small crowd of just over 4,000 at the Home’s Stadium Kobe witnessed a fortunate victory for Vissel against newly promoted Consadole Sapporo. Vissel’s winning start to the season remained intact largely owing to the kkaido side’s failure to capitalise on several goalscoring opportunities. Consadole started the game very brightly and took the lead on seven minutes when Shunsuke Maeda’s header crashed against the crossbar, and Masaki Yamamoto was the first to react to the rebound, sending his shot beyond Kenta Tokushige. 22 minutes had elasped when Vissel struck back, Hideo Tanaka cleverly holding up play on the edge of the Consadole area, before diverting the ball into Gakuto Kondo’s path, the 31 year-old defender striking a fierce shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Sapporo continued to press, but it would be substitute Ken Tokura who would settle the game in the Kansai team’s favour. The forward was introduced with 30 minutes remaining, and he made no mistake in winning the game for Vissel in the 83rd minute with a close-range shot from Gatuko Kondo’s well-judged low cross.

Joining Vegalta, Vissel and FC Tokyo on six points are Kawasaki Frontale. Frontale’s second 1-0 win in a row also made it two defeats in a row for vanquished Kashima Antlers, the only goal of the match coming in first-half injury time when new signing Renato stepped up to take a fee-kick he had won himself, and guided the ball past Hitoshi Sogahata. You can read the match report for FC Tokyo 3 Nagoya Grampus 2 here.

Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol’s miserable start to the season continued. A 36th minute goal from forward Ranko Despotovic, his first in the J.League after joining the Reds in 2011 ensured all three points remained in Saitama. The Sun Kings, who began the season with a shock 3-2 2011 AFC Champions League defeat to Buriram United, and drew 3-3 with Yokohama F-Marinos on the opening day of the season, next face Shimizu S-Pulse at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium, where they will hope to return to winning ways.

S-Pa, meanwhile, notched up a 2-1 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their first home game of the season. With a 13,000 crowd looking on at the Outsourcing Stadium, a 9th minute goal from Australian utility player Alex Brosque coming after Shusaku Nishikawa had saved well from Yosuke Kawai. Six minutes after the restart Toshiyuki Takagi doubled the lead, and an 87th minute Kazuhiko Chiba header from a Yojiro Takahagi corner could not prevent Sanfre from falling to their first J.League defeat of the season.

Albirex Niigata will head to Nagoya Grampus on 25 March still in search of their first points, stumbling to a 2-1 defeat by Omiya Ardija at the Tohoku Electric Power Big Swan Stadium. Two second-half goals from defender Kosuke Kikuchi and Rafael overturned the half-time deficit, Bruno Lopes heading in a Yusuke Murakami cross after 11 minutes had elapsed.

Sagan Tosu’s four shots were sufficient to give the visitors at the Yahama Stadium a 1-0 lead over Jubilo Iwata on 17 minutes, but Jubilo’s pressure told with goals on 27 and 34 minutes from Kiroki Yamada and Yuichi Komano. Last year’s J.League Division 2 top-scorer Yohei Toyada opened the scoring for the top-flight newcomers, but a deflected Yamada shot and Komano’s free-kick meant Jubilo would take all three points.

Coming soon …

Welcome to Football Japan, an in-depth take on the J.League and Samurai Blue. Coming soon is a 2012 J.League season preview, updates from across divisions 1 and 2 on transfer activity, live-blogging J.League games as they happen, with detailed reporting on both the league and the national team as they attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and their fifth successive appearance at the tournament. As current holders of the FIFA Women’s World Cup following a tense penalty shoot-out victory over the United States, and a men’s national team that defeated Australia to be crowned AFC Asian Cup champions for the first time since 2004 and fourth overall, these are very exciting for Japanese football, and I look forward to providing you with insights into the beautiful game in the country.