Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Japanese Soccer News Gamba Top Table

Japanese Soccer News Gamba Top Table.
J-League News: Gamba top the table going into 'Golden Week'

'Golden week' is a popular time of year in Japan, with many choosing to schedule time off around the several public holidays that take place towards the end of April and the start of May.

Far from taking time off, the J-League kicks into over-drive, with some of the biggest clashes in Japanese football whetting the appetite of football fans.

On the last weekend in April, 41,283 fans turned out at 'Big Swan' Stadium in Niigata, only to watch in disbelief as home side Albirex Niigata crashed 6-0 to Yokohama F. Marinos.

Urawa Reds' massive travelling support made up a large proportion of the 36,146 fans that turned out at Kashima Stadium, and it was the Reds' fans who went home happy, as a solitary Robson Ponte strike was enough to see off hosts Kashima Antlers.

A full round of midweek fixtures will take place on May 3, with several mouth-watering derbies catching the eye.

Vissel Kobe have the unenviable task of welcoming Gamba Osaka to Kobe Wing Stadium, as the two clubs clash in a 'Kansai Derby.' This will be the second time that they have met in 2007, with Gamba holding Kobe to a 2-2 draw when the two clubs clashed in the League Cup on March 25.

Yokohama F. Marinos are in devastating form, having beaten Oita Trinita 5-0 and Albirex Niigata 6-0 in successive matches. They take on Kawasaki Frontale in the Kanagawa Derby at Nissan Stadium, with Kawasaki looking fatigued in recent weeks after their exploits in the Asian Champions League.

Two of Japan's most bitter rivals clash at Nihondaira Stadium to complete the round, as Shimizu S-Pulse take on Jubilo Iwata in the Shizuoka Derby.

Jubilo famously beat Shimizu on penalties at Nihondaira Stadium in a championship decider in 1999, when the J-League was still contested over two separate stages.

All tickets for this long-awaited fixture have been sold, meaning that around 19,000 fans should cram into Nihondaira to see which club will claim the first bragging rights of 2007.

The regional match-ups continue when another full round of fixtures takes place on May 6.

Struggling Kyushu club Oita Trinita take on fellow southern outfit Sanfrecce Hiroshima, with Oita desperate for a win to scramble clear of the relegation zone.

Kashima Antlers clash with fellow giants Yokohama F. Marinos at Kashima Stadium, as two of the heavyweights of Japanese football look to escape from mid-table mediocrity.

Kawasaki Frontale take on neighbours FC Tokyo, and club officials will expect another near-capacity crowd at Todoroki Stadium for this game.

Pride of place goes to the Saitama Derby, however, as lowly Omiya Ardija host cross-town rivals Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium. Omiya are currently second-from-bottom, and they need a drastic change of form and fortune if they are to avoid a lengthy battle against the drop in 2007.

The pick of the fixtures in J2 sees Vegalta Sendai take on Kyoto Sanga FC on May 3, before Sendai travel to Sapporo to take on Consadole on May 6, as first meets second at Atsubetsu Stadium.

Kazuki Ganaha suspended

Japan striker Kazuki Ganaha was voluntarily suspended by his club Kawasaki Frontale on April 25, after he violated J-League rules by taking an intravenous supplement in a bid to cure a bout of influenza. In doing so he violated the J-League's anti-doping code, and he may face a multi-game suspension after having his case heard by a league disciplinary committee.

Asian Champions League

Urawa Reds travelled to Shanghai for their latest Asian Champions League fixture, where they were held to a 0-0 draw by hosts Shanghai Shenhua United. The result means that Urawa are now just one point in front of 2005 A-League champions Sydney FC in Group E, with two matches remaining.

Kawasaki Frontale have virtually assured their progression from Group F, after their comprehensive 3-0 win over South Korean outfit Chunnam Dragons. Ironically it was a Korean striker who did most of the damage, as two late goals from Jong Tae-se - who was standing in for the suspended Kazuki Ganaha - saw off Chunnam, following an early strike from Juninho.

Japanese Players Overseas

Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic
Nakamura capped a stellar year for Celtic by scoring the goal that clinched a second successive Scottish Premier League crown for the club. The Japanese international curled home a dramatic last-minute free-kick against Kilmarnock, to seal a 2-1 victory.

Later in the day Nakamura was named the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association Player Of The Year. He also received the Goal Of The Year award, for his strike against Dundee United on Boxing Day that earned a point for the Hoops in a 2-2 draw.

Naohiro Takahara : Eintracht FrankfurtDespite scoring ten league goals in 27 games for Eintracht Frankfurt, Naohiro Takahara's team is mired in a relegation battle in the German Bundesliga. Takahara was poor in Eintracht's recent 2-0 away loss to Borussia Dortmund, and that result means that Frankfurt are currently fourth from bottom, just one point above sixteenth-placed Alemannia Aachen.

Alessandro Santos : Salzburg

Former Urawa Reds midfielder Alessandro Santos missed Salzburg's recent championship celebrations through injury. Before his injury, he had started seven games for the controversial Austrian club, which wrapped up the title with five games remaining.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : SalzburgEx-Gamba Osaka fan-favourite Tsuneyasu Miyamoto has featured infrequently for Salzburg. He has started just two games since joining from Gamba, although that has not prevented the club from attracting visiting Japanese fans to their games, with some two hundred attending the recent 1-1 home draw against SV Mattersburg.

Koji Nakata : FC BaselKoji Nakata's FC Basel are still well and truly in the race for the Swiss championship. Nakata played the full ninety minutes of Basel's recent 2-0 away win over FC Thun, which leaves the Swiss giants just three points behind current league leaders FC Z├╝rich.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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