The Kashima Antlers juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down as the Ibaraki giants beat Gamba Osaka 1-0 in front of a capacity crowd of 19,092 at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka.
Former Japan international Koji Nakata stepped into midfield in place of the suspended Mitsuo Ogasawara, and the ex-FC Basel star promptly scored the only goal of the game after just sixteen minutes.
The purported outbreak of "Swine Flu" in the Kansai region failed to prevent a capacity crowd from descending on Banpaku for the marquee clash between Gamba and Kashima, but only 6,002 fans turned out at Kobe Wing Stadium a day earlier to watch Vissel Kobe beat Kashiwa Reysol.
Those that did saw on-loan Benfica striker Marcel nod home a simple finish after seven minutes, before veteran Park Kang-Jo added a second for the hosts just after the hour mark. Kashiwa pulled a goal back from a direct free-kick through substitute Popo with ten minutes remaining, but Kobe substitute Kenji Baba rounded out the scoring when he volleyed home in stoppage time.
In front of a sell-out crowd of 15,632 at Yamaha Stadium, hosts Jubilo Iwata beat Tokai rivals Nagoya Grampus 2-1, with all the goals coming in the final ten minutes of the game.
Nagoya were reduced to ten men when midfielder Yoshizumi Ogawa saw red with nine minutes remaining, and Jubilo took advantage when Daisuke Nasu nodded home from a rebound two minutes later, before substitute Sho Naruoka added a second soon after. Davi pulled a goal back for Nagoya, but it was not enough to prevent Dragan Stojkovic's side from succumbing to defeat in this Tokai derby.
FC Tokyo went down to local rivals Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 in front of 27,851 fans at Ajinomoto Stadium, with Kawasaki storming back from two goals down thanks to a second half display that saw Juninho, Hiroyuki Taniguchi and Renatinho all get on the scoresheet against their shell-shocked rivals from across the Tama river.
The Saitama derby saw Omiya Ardija hold local rivals Urawa Reds to a 1-1 draw, with Urawa defender Hajime Hosogai cancelling out an early goal from Omiya's Korean defender Park Won-Jae in front of 37,027 fans at Saitama Stadium.
Elsewhere in J1 a thumping Masaki Yamamoto free-kick was enough to see Shimizu S-Pulse beat Albirex Niigata at Big Swan Stadium, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima eked out a 1-0 win at fellow southern club Oita Trinita. Montedio Yamagata and Kyoto Sanga played out a dull scoreless draw, while JEF United were held to a 1-1 draw by Yokohama F. Marinos in front of 14,833 fans at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.
Kashima Antlers lead the way as the league breaks for a month for the climax of Asian World Cup qualifying, with Urawa Reds four points behind defending champions Kashima. Albirex Niigata are in third, while Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka round out the top five.
In J2, the pick of the fixtures saw relegated sides Consadole Sapporo and Tokyo Verdy play out a 1-1 draw in front of 10,002 fans at Atsubetsu Stadium in Hokkaido, while Shonan Bellmare thumped the hapless Kataller Toyama 5-0 at home. League leaders Cerezo Osaka dished out a similar thrashing in beating the troubled Avispa Fukuoka 4-1 at home, while rock-bottom Yokohama FC went down 2-1 away at promotion chasing Vegalta Sendai.
Cerezo Osaka lead the way in J2, with Shonan Bellmare a further two points behind. Vegalta Sendai lead the rest of the chasing pack, with Ventforet Kofu and Mito Hollyhock rounding out the rest of the top five.
Makoto Hasebe crowned Bundesliga champion
Former Urawa Reds midfielder Makoto Hasebe played the opening fifty-five minutes of VfL Wolfsburg's 5-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen on Saturday, as Wolfsburg coasted to a first-ever German title.
Hasebe's international team-mate Yoshito Okubo was an unused substitute, as the two became the first Japanese players to win a Bundesliga title since Yasuhiko Okudera did so with 1.FC Köln back in 1978.
Both Hasebe and Okubo have been named in the Japan squad for the upcoming final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com
World Soccer News
Soccer Books & DVDs
Soccer News football J-League K-League