Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse in cracking Nabisco Cup form

Shimizu S-Pulse in cracking Nabisco Cup form.
They may be struggling in the league, but Shimizu S-Pulse are on course to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Nabisco League Cup following their most recent 4-2 victory over local rivals Jubilo Iwata on May 25.

Playmaker Jungo Fujimoto scored twice for the Shizuoka side, but it was 23-year-old striker Kazuki Hara who stole the show, turning in an eye-catching performance as he looks to press claims for a regular starting position in Kenta Hasegawa's side.

JEF United remained unbeaten under new coach Alex Miller after they beat Consadole Sapporo 2-1 away in Hakodate, with ex-Vegalta Sendai striker Tatsunori Arai scoring twice.

The largest crowd of the day turned out at Toyota Stadium, where hosts Nagoya Grampus thumped Urawa Reds 4-2 to all but end Urawa's hopes of progressing to the last eight of the competition. The Saitama giants have picked up just two points from their four matches played so far.

Another full round of Nabisco League Cup fixtures takes place on May 31, with the pick of the action seeing Kyoto Sanga FC hoping to keep their quarter-final hopes alive when they host Nagoya Grampus, FC Tokyo take on Shimizu S-Pulse in the unusual surrounds of Matsumoto Stadium in Nagano, Kashiwa Reysol and JEF United face off in the Chiba derby at Kashiwanoha Stadium and Oita Trinita welcome Yokohama F. Marinos to the Kyushu Oil Dome, with both teams locked in a tense battle for supremacy in Group D.

J. League issues apology

The J. League has issued an apology to Kawasaki Frontale striker Kazuki Ganaha, who saw his appeal against a J. League-imposed doping ban upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Geneva.

Ganaha was handed a six-match ban by the J. League in 2007 after he was issued an intravenous drip by his club in an attempt to overcome the effects of a cold. Although Ganaha's injection contained little more than a garlic infusion he was subsequently banned by the J. League, who claimed that his treatment contravened their strict anti-doping regulations.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport found that Ganaha was not at fault for the breach and overturned the J. League's decision, as well as ordering the J. League to contribute to the cost of Ganaha's appeal.

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka look set to escape punishment

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka look set to escape official sanctions following the serious crowd disturbances that marred Gamba's 3-2 victory over the Reds at Saitama Stadium on May 17.

Both clubs were forced to apologise to J. League chairman Kenji Onitake in the aftermath of the tumultuous scenes, while Gamba Osaka took it upon themselves to disband one of their main supporter groups.

Nearly two weeks after the match the J. League is yet to hand down official sanctions, suggesting that two of Japan's most powerful clubs will go unpunished for their roles in some of the worst fan violence to have hit the league.

Japan National Teams

Japan may have won the Kirin Cup, but Takeshi Okada's team failed to impress too many fans when they followed up a 1-0 win over Cote D'Ivoire on May 24 with an insipid display in a 0-0 draw with Paraguay just three days later.

It wasn't just the turgid football that will have alarming bells ringing in JFA headquarters, with a respectable 40,710 crowd at Toyota Stadium followed three days later by a turn-out of just 27,988 that left more than half of Saitama Stadium empty.

Coach Okada dropped goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Urawa Reds striker Naohiro Takahara from his starting eleven, and it was Takahara's replacement Keiji Tamada who scored the winner over the Cote D'Ivoire.

After starting both matches, Tamada's Nagoya Grampus team-mate Seigo Narazaki will almost certainly take the gloves for Japan's upcoming World Cup qualifier with Oman at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

Meanwhile Yasuharu Sorimachi's Olympic team lost out in the semi-finals of the 2008 Toulon Tournament to Italy, going down 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw, with Celtic's Koki Mizuno missing the crucial spot-kick.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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