Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Urawa Reds In Box Seat To Defend Their J-League Crown

Urawa Reds In Box Seat To Defend Their J-League Crown.
Urawa Reds lead the way in the J-League with seven rounds remaining, having dropped just five points since the mid-season summer break.

Urawa's latest victory came in front of 47,755 fans at a rain-soaked Saitama Stadium, with Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte scoring a late winner.

Gamba Osaka also needed a stoppage time winner from striker Bare to beat lowly Oita Trinita 1-0. For the second week in a row Bare's stoppage time goal kept Gamba in the title race, but the Osakans are still six points behind league leaders Urawa.

Third placed Kashima Antlers needed a goal from their Brazilian striker Marquinhos midway through the second half, to see off a stubborn Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Big Arch Stadium.

JEF United beat FC Tokyo in a thriller played in atrocious conditions at Fukuda Denshi Arena. The hosts stormed out to a three goal lead thanks to clinical strikes from Tatsunori Arai and Kohei Kudo, before Koki Mizuno converted a second-half penalty for the Chiba side. Tokyo stormed back through goals from Japan international Yasuyuki Konno and Brazilian striker Lucas Severino, but the capital club ultimately ran out of time in their quest to find an equaliser.

The shock of the round came at Nissan Stadium, where Omiya Ardija battled to a 2-0 win over hosts Yokohama F. Marinos, courtesy of goals from ex-F. Marinos midfielder Takashi Hirano and striker Kota Yoshihara.

The victory means that Omiya Ardija are just one point behind Ventforet Kofu, who hold the all-important promotion/relegation playoff place. Kofu finished with nine men in their 1-1 draw away at Kawasaki Frontale, after defenders Arata Sugiyama and Michitaka Akimoto were both sent off. Ken Fujita opened the scoring early on for Kofu, but Kawasaki midfielder Hiroyuki Taniguchi scored a stoppage time equaliser that seriously dents Kofu's hopes of survival.

The highlight fixtures of the next round see FC Tokyo looking to avenge a League Cup quarter-final defeat to neighbours Yokohama F. Marinos, Omiya Ardija travel to an out-of-sorts Albirex Niigata, Shimizu S-Pulse face Nagoya Grampus Eight in a "Tokai Derby," Ventforet Kofu face a JEF United side that is chasing its sixth win in a row, Gamba Osaka are on the road against a tough-looking Kashiwa Reysol, and Urawa return to their spiritual home of Komaba Stadium to take on Oita Trinita.

Consadole Sapporo still lead the way in J2, but their lead has been cut to just four points after Tokyo Verdy hammered the northern outfit 5-1 in front of 11,833 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium on September 30.

Diego scored a hattrick for the fallen giants, whilst Hulk scored his thirty-first goal in just his thirty-sixth game of a remarkable season.

Elsewhere Kyoto Sanga FC missed a chance to pull away from Vegalta Sendai in third place on the table, after they conceded two late goals to draw 2-2 away at Shonan Bellmare. Sendai responded by beating Mito Hollyhock 1-0 on the road, despite losing midfielder Naoki Chiba to a thirty-fourth minute red card.

Nabisco League Cup

League football takes a break next week as the Nabisco League Cup resumes at the semi-final stage.

On October 10, Yokohama F. Marinos host Kawasaki Frontale in a Kanagawa Derby, while Gamba Osaka welcome Japan's most successful team Kashima Antlers to Expo '70 Stadium.

The return legs take place three days later.

AFC Champions League

Just as they did in the first-leg of their quarter-final clash with Jeonbuk Motors FC, Urawa Reds conceded a late equaliser to Korean opposition in their AFC Champions League semi-final clash in midweek.

K-League giants Seongnam Chunma raced out to an early lead through their Brazilian striker Mota, but Urawa roared back thanks to strikes from Tatsuya Tanaka and Robson Ponte. Midfielder Kim Do-Heon kept Seongnam in the tie with a late equaliser, however that failed to prevent Urawa's German coach Holger Osieck from claiming that he was "delighted" with the result.

Kawasaki Frontale were knocked out at the quarter-final stage, losing on penalties to Iranian side Sepahan after both legs of their final eight clash ended in 0-0 draws.

Japanese Players Overseas

Junichi Inamoto and Naohiro Takahara : Eintracht Frankfurt

After featuring prominently in the early part of the season, midfielder Junichi Inamoto has been ruled out for the foreseeable future due to a torn stomach muscle. He joins Naohiro Takahara on the sidelines, who has returned to Japan to receive treatment on a persistent knee injury.

Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic

Last season's SPL Player Of The Year Shunsuke Nakamura has also been labouring under injury, and he played just six minutes of Celtic's dramatic 2-1 UEFA Champions League win over reigning holders AC Milan, coming on as a late substitute.

Koji Nakata : FC Basel

Combative midfielder Koji Nakata has been an ever-present for FC Basel, and his team booked their place in the UEFA Cup group stage by thrashing Bosnian side FK Sarajevo 8-1 on aggregate in their first round clash.

Daisuke Matsui : Le Mans

Daisuke Matsui has played all but one of high-flying Le Mans' Ligue 1 fixtures this season, with the team from north-western France currently lying in fifth place on the league table.

Alessandro Santos and Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : Salzburg

Both Alex and Tsuneyasu Miyamoto have featured only sporadically for Austrian club Salzburg this season, with neither player featuring in Salzburg's most recent 1-0 UEFA Cup win over AEK Athens - with the Greek side going through 3-1 on aggregate.

Urawa Reds In Box Seat To Defend Their J-League Crown.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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