Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Japanese Soccer News Urawa Fight Back

J-League News: Urawa fight back as Gamba's lead is cut to five

Gamba Osaka continue to lead the standings with one match to play before the mid-season break, despite dropping points to Yokohama F. Marinos recently.

F. Marinos held Gamba to a 0-0 draw in front of 13,956 fans at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Round 16, however Gamba bounced back to thrash FC Tokyo 6-2 three days later.

Urawa took advantage by beating Vissel Kobe 2-0 in midweek, before defeating Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 in front of a capacity crowd of 20,300 at Nihondaira Stadium in Round 17.

Ex-JEF United midfielder Yuki Abe scored the only goal of the game, heading home unmarked from a Robson Ponte corner.

Shimizu S-Pulse vs Urawa Reds, Nihondaira Stadium, June 23 2007
Kashima Antlers have charged up the table courtesy of a nine match unbeaten run. The Antlers have picked up 21 points from a possible 27 since losing 1-0 to bitter rivals Urawa back in Round 8 - despite losing striker ex-Japan striker Atsushi Yanagisawa to injury.

Kashima's most recent win came over Nagoya Grampus Eight. They beat the Red Whales 2-1 in front of 14,317 fans at Kashima Stadium, courtesy of goals from Chikashi Masuda and Marquinhos. Norwegian international Frode Johnsen scored a consolation for Nagoya.

Nagoya Red Whale
Yokohama FC prop up the J-League following their thirteenth loss in seventeen games. They were beaten 4-2 by Kashiwa Reysol in Round 17, for whom Japan Olympic striker Tadanari Ri scored twice. Both clubs were promoted from J2 last season, but while Kashiwa are flying high in sixth place, Yokohama FC are almost certain to return to the Second Division next season.

The bottom three is surprisingly rounded out by Oita Trinita and JEF United, who have both made disastrous starts to 2007. JEF United are third from bottom, despite providing Japan's provisional Asian Cup squad with five players.

Oita Trinita are in seventeenth place, and last season's key players Shusaku Nishikawa and Daiki Takamatsu have been discarded from the first team by coach Pericles. Shota Matsuhashi recently made his international debut for Japan, but he too was dropped from the first team by Pericles, although he started in Oita's most recent 2-0 away defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Ventforet Kofu.

In J2 Consadole Sapporo still lead the way in the wake of Round 23, after they beat Tokyo Verdy 1-0 in front of almost 13,000 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo. Vegalta Sendai beat Ehime FC 3-0 before a crowd of 12,116 in Sendai, to stay ahead of third place Kyoto Sanga FC on goal difference.

Ilian Stoyanov blasts JEF United coach Amar OsimBulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov has been dropped by JEF United after launching a scathing attack on coach Amar Osim.

Stoyanov told club officials that unless Osim was sacked, he would demand a release from the Chiba-based club in July.

The ex-Levski Sofia defender was quoted by Nikkan Sports as saying, "if Amar goes, I'll stay."

The Bulgarian believes that Bosnian coach Osim will steer the two-time League Cup winners into the Second Division.

Stoyanov has been excluded from the squad since making the remarks, although JEF United fans have made their own feelings clear.

They chanted Stoyanov's name throughout United's most recent 2-1 home defeat to Albirex Niigata - a loss which saw United slip back into the bottom three.

Stoyanov is the second player to be stood down by his club recently, after former Vissel Kobe captain Atsuhiro Miura was suspended by his club for making critical remarks aimed at coach Hiroshi Matsuda.

Takehito Shigehara banned for seven matches

Refereeing standards in the J-League have once again come under scrutiny, after Takehito Shigehara was sent off in Ventforet Kofu's 2-1 away defeat to FC Tokyo in Round 16.

The controversy erupted when a contentious offside call went against Shigehara in the eighty-sixth minute of the match. Referee Masaaki Iemoto booked Shigehara for dissent, before the referee was approached by a linesman who claimed that Shigehara had "expelled saliva" after receiving the yellow card.

Referee Iemoto immediately brandished a second yellow card and sent Shigehara from the field, despite the fact that it appeared that Shigehara had simply spat on the ground as he walked away from the referee.

Shigehara was subsequently handed a seven match suspension by the J-League - including four matches for spitting, although the sight of players spitting on the ground is common in the J-League.

Shigehara was handed a further two match suspension for making abusive remarks towards the referee after being sent off, and received a further match ban for "smashing equipment" on his way down the player's tunnel.

This is not the first time this season that refereeing decisions have come under the microscope.

On May 6 referee Kazuhisa Osada mistakenly sent off Oita Trinita midfielder Yoshiaki Fujita for a second bookable offence in Oita's 2-1 loss to Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the Kyushu Oil Dome.

The pleas of both Oita and Hiroshima players that Osada had booked Fujita instead of defender Takashi Miki, who had conceded a penalty, fell on deaf ears as referee Osada sent Fujita from the field.

The J-League was forced to rescind Fujita's suspension in the aftermath of that match, admitting that the referee had mistakenly brandished a yellow card - Fujita's second - to the wrong player.

Japan National TeamJapan coach Ivica Osim named a thirty man provisional squad for the upcoming Asian Cup, co-hosted by Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Not surprisingly Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic and Eintracht Frankfurt's Naohiro Takahara are the star men in the squad, although there was no room for FC Basel's Koji Nakata or new Frankfurt signing Junichi Inamoto.

Japan is aiming for a third straight Asian Cup, and three players were involved in the two previous tournaments; goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, defender Yuji Nakazawa and Celtic man Nakamura.

Japan's first match is against Qatar on July 9, before they face United Arab Emirates and Vietnam in their later group games.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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