Friday, May 2, 2008

Derby day looms as Golden Week heats up

All JEF United fans need is a win
The extended Golden Week holiday period has caused headaches for defending J. League champions Kashima Antlers.

The Ibaraki giants were run off their feet in the final fifteen minutes of their clash with Omiya Ardija on April 27, as the Saitama outfit came roaring back to record an impressive 1-1 draw.

Young striker Shinzo Koroki had handed Kashima an early lead at a packed Omiya Park, however the hosts hit back with a header from captain Yoshiyuki Kobayashi with fifteen minutes remaining. Omiya battered their illustrious rivals thereafter, and they should have snatched a winner when playmaker Daigo Kobayashi fired high and wide after he had been played in by a perfect through ball from Brazilian striker Denis Marques.

Three days later Kashima were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Vissel Kobe, with some uncharacteristically poor defending aiding Kobe's cause. Marquinhos handed Kashima the lead with a bullet header midway through the second half, however a mix-up in the Kashima defence allowed Takayuki Yoshida to steal in behind the back four and produce a simple finish for the equaliser.

With three minutes remaining mercurial Kobe striker Yoshito Okubo then scored one of the easiest goals of his career, as Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata inexplicably raced out of his area to meet a long punt forward - only to be beaten to the ball by Okubo, who simply nodded the ball around the stricken keeper before tapping it into an empty net. Kashima hit back less than sixty seconds later through the goal of the game, as Marquinhos produced a clinical finish after being played in by Danilo.

On May 3 Kashima travel to Todoroki Stadium for a tough looking fixture with Kawasaki Frontale. The Kanagawa side have won both of their fixtures under Tsutomu Takahata, who took over as coach following the shock resignation of Takashi Sekizuka.

In the other highlight fixtures on May 3 local rivalries catch the eye, as Omiya Ardija host FC Tokyo in a clash of two unexpected high fliers at Omiya Park. There's a nostalgia-filled encounter set to take place at the National Stadium between Tokyo Verdy and Yokohama F. Marinos, while Nagoya Grampus will look to end a two-game losing streak when they welcome Gamba Osaka to Toyota Stadium.

JEF United welcome prefectural rivals Kashiwa Reysol to town for the Chiba derby, and United coach Josip Kuze is desperate for a win. His team are yet to register a victory this season, and the Chiba Dogs are already five points adrift of second-from-bottom Consadole Sapporo. While most expected JEF United to be involved in a relegation dogfight, few would have predicted that the 2005 and 2006 League Cup champions would be so far adrift at this early stage. Ironically these two sides have already met at Fukuda Denshi Arena in this season's League Cup, where they played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

A year to the day since they last met at Nihondaira Stadium, Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata renew hostilities in the Shizuoka derby. Two defeats to their arch-rivals last season cost Jubilo coach Adilson his job, however Jubilo's then-tormentor Cho Jae-Jin has since departed for the K-League.

Both of these sides go into this clash in form, with Shimizu S-Pulse having downed FC Tokyo 1-0 on April 26, before beating Kashiwa Reysol 2-0 in Chiba three days later. Jubilo Iwata came from behind to beat JEF United 2-1 thanks to a brace from Gilsinho, before they downed Kyoto Sanga FC 2-0 at Yamaha Stadium on April 29. The two Shizuoka outfits will meet again in the League Cup at Nihondaira on May 25, so both will be itching to gain the upper hand in what is likely to be an epic encounter.

The Shizuoka derby
Sanfrecce Hiroshima lead the way in J2, with the relegated outfit having lost just once in their nine league games so far. They hammered Tokushima Vortis 4-1 in front of 7,254 fans at Pocarisweat Stadium on April 29, with Koji Morisaki and Hisato Sato both helping themselves to a double.

Vegalta Sendai are in second after they thrashed Sagan Tosu 3-0 before a crowd of 13,461 at Yurtec Stadium in their latest encounter, while fallen giants Cerezo Osaka are in third.

Pierre Littbarski's Avispa Fukuoka have been the division's most disappointing side, with the Kyushu outfit currently lying tenth in the J2 standings. Littbarski raided his former club Sydney FC for defender Mark Rudan and midfielder Ufuk Talay, as well as adding Australian international Joel Griffiths to his ranks. The Aussies have failed to settle, however, with Rudan currently out with a knee injury, while the robust styles of Talay and Griffiths have caught the eye of some of J2's more pedantic referees.

Takehito Shigehara questioned over alleged panty theft

Japan international Takehito Shigehara has been questioned by police over an alleged underwear theft that is said to have taken place in September 2001.

The Kashiwa Reysol star is alleged to have gained entry to a woman's Kobe apartment and stolen several pairs of her underwear, as well as a mobile phone.

Shigehara was recently called up to the Japan squad by coach Takeshi Okada, however the midfielder is currently absent from the Kashiwa Reysol line-up pending the outcome of police investigations.

Japanese Players overseas

Makoto Hasebe : VfL Wolfsburg

Makoto Hasebe scored his first goal for VfL Wolfsburg in their most recent 2-2 draw at Bayer Leverkusen - although there was an element of fortune to the strike, with the former Urawa man appearing to foul Leverkusen defender Hans Sarpei as he bundled the ball over the line.

Junichi Inamoto : Eintracht Frankfurt

The much-travelled Junichi Inamoto has started in Eintracht Frankfurt's last three Bundesliga encounters, and the one-time Arsenal midfielder is expected to feature in Frankfurt's upcoming clash with defending champions VfB Stuttgart.

Shinji Ono : VfL Bochum

Injury-prone ex-Feyenoord midfielder Shinji Ono has fallen out of favour with VfL Bochum coach Marcel Koller, with Ono having made just three starts for the Ruhr club since his January transfer from Urawa Reds.

Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic
Celtic are five points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League following their most recent 3-2 defeat of arch-rivals Rangers, in which Shunsuke Nakamura played the full ninety minutes. Despite the victory Rangers are still in the box seat to claim the Premier League crown, with the Glasgow giants having three games in hand over their city rivals.
Takayuki Morimoto : Catania
Youngster Takayuki Morimoto has returned to the Catania squad following a spate of recent injuries, however the former Tokyo Verdy man has been forced to bide his time on the bench, with Catania currently involved in a tense relegation scrap at the wrong end of Serie A.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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