Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kawasaki gear up for epic Kashima showdown

Kawasaki gear up for epic Kashima showdown.
If there's one team that can stop the Kashima Antlers juggernaut from steam-rolling to a third successive J. League title, it's Kawasaki Frontale.

The Kanagawa side geared up for an epic showdown with Kashima on Sunday by beating Gamba Osaka 1-0 at Todoroki Stadium in a rescheduled Round 10 fixture overnight.

Youngster Yuji Yabu scored the only goal of the game, setting up a highly anticipated clash with runaway league leaders Kashima in four days time.

Kawasaki can cut the deficit at the top of standings to just five points with a win over Kashima, but Gamba's title hopes look all but over after they lost to Kawasaki for the second time in a week.

The reigning Asian champions were knocked out of this year's Champions League after Kawasaki beat Gamba 3-2 in a thriller at Expo '70 Stadium on July 24.

Kashima Antlers were also knocked out of the Champions League on the same night - losing on penalties to South Korean club FC Seoul - but unlike Gamba, the Antlers look well placed to pick up another piece of silverware this season.

They hammered a disappointing Nagoya Grampus 3-0 in the evening's other rescheduled fixture overnight, with midfielder Takuya Nozawa scoring either side of goals from strikers Shinzo Koroki and Marquinhos.

A full round of top flight fixtures takes place on the weekend of July 4/5, with the highlights seeing Omiya Ardija welcome Yokohama F. Marinos to Omiya Park, while the bottom two clash at Kyushu Oil Dome when Oita Trinita host JEF United in a relegation six-pointer.

On Sunday night, Nagoya Grampus host Gamba Osaka in a Toyota Stadium blockbuster, injury-riddled Sanfrecce Hiroshima take on Jubilo Iwata at Big Arch Stadium, while all eyes will be on Todoroki Stadium as Kawasaki Frontale welcome Kashima Antlers to town.

Caio Junior becomes the season's first casualty

Vissel Kobe coach Caio Junior became the first J. League coach to exit his post this season when stepped down following the Kansai club's latest 2-0 defeat away at Urawa Reds.

The Brazilian tactician arrived with impressive credentials, but the man last in charge of Brazilian giants Flamengo failed to endear himself to the Kobe faithful for his inability to win with a side that includes former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.

The disastrous signings of compatriots Alan Bahia and on-loan Benfica forward Marcel contributed to Caio Junior's unpopularity, and the Brazilian jumped before he was pushed, with Vissel Kobe currently lying fourteenth in the standings.

Masahiro Wada has stepped in to take charge on an interim basis, and his first match is the home clash with FC Tokyo this Saturday night.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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