Monday, November 12, 2007

Crowds flock in as the J-League goes down to the wire

There were full houses aplenty on a weekend of drama in the J-League.

20,044 fans packed into Gamba Osaka's Expo '70 Stadium to witness Brazilian striker Bare score twice, as Gamba stayed alive in the 2007 title race by downing JEF United 2-0.

Yasuhito Endo was the architect of the victory, with the mercurial midfielder setting up both of Bare's goals in a man-of-the-match display. Bare, who was signed from Ventforet Kofu at the start of the season, took his goal tally to nineteen league goals in 28 matches, to join Kawasaki Frontale's Juninho at the top of the goal-scoring charts.

Albirex Niigata came from behind to beat FC Tokyo 2-1 in front of 37,851 fans at a wet Big Swan Stadium, with Edmilson scoring twice in the second half, to cancel out Naohiro Ishikawa's opener. Meanwhile Yokohama FC picked up their first point under Brazilian coach Julio Leal when they held hosts Kashiwa Reysol to a 1-1 draw at Kashiwanoha Stadium in Chiba.

Ventforet Kofu may have to start selling off what few assets they possess as they could be bound for J2 next season. The Yamanashi team were thumped 4-1 by Vissel Kobe at Kobe Wing Stadium - a result that leaves Kofu four points behind third-from-bottom Sanfrecce Hiroshima with three games remaining.

Ventforet Kofu: J2 bound?
Hiroshima were beaten 3-1 by Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 16,508 fans at Nihondaira Stadium, in an early Sunday afternoon kick-off. Japan under-22 international Yosuke Kashiwagi opened the scoring for Hiroshima, but Shimizu equalised immediately courtesy of defender Daisuke Ichikawa's rasping drive.
The visitors were proving tough to break down, but Shimizu took advantage of a contentious penalty decision just after the hour mark, as Fernandinho was adjudged to have been fouled inside the box. Jungo Fujimoto stepped up to thump home an unstoppable spot-kick, and he returned the favour by setting up Fernandinho for Shimizu's third.
Jungo Fujimoto converts from the penalty spot

In other Sunday action, 14,752 fans squeezed into the refurbished Omiya Park Stadium to celebrate Omiya's return to their spiritual home, but those fans lucky enough to find tickets were left stunned as Oita Trinita spoiled the party.
Things started well for Omiya, who opened the scoring after three minutes through midfielder Yoshiyuki Kobayashi. The Kyushu club equalised through midfielder Yoshiaki Fujita, and substitute Shunsuke Maeda silenced the capacity crowd by scoring the winner two minutes from time.

Oita's stunning win pulls them five points clear of the relegation zone. Omiya Ardija are in fifteenth on 30 points, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima currently occupying the relegation/promotion play-off place. Ventforet Kofu are second-from-bottom, while Yokohama FC have already been relegated.

The weekend action was rounded out by Kawasaki Frontale's colossal tussle with Urawa Reds. Some 23,355 fans packed Todoroki Stadium to the rafters to witness an ill-tempered contest, with Washington's penalty cancelling out Yuji Yabu's early opener for Kawasaki.


The J2 title race looks set for a thrilling climax. With three rounds remaining Consadole Sapporo lead the way, but they have seen their lead at the top of the table whittled down to just two points by Tokyo Verdy.

Sapporo crashed to a 1-0 defeat to mid-table Sagan Tosu, and after Sagan Tosu dumped J1 club Albirex Niigata out of the Emperor's Cup last weekend, 7,680 fans turned out at Tosu Stadium to witness the home side add another big-name scalp to their collection.

Tokyo Verdy failed to take advantage in the wet at Ajinomoto Stadium, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by fourth-placed Vegalta Sendai in front of 16,342 fans. Korean Ryang Yong-Gi opened the scoring for the visitors, and Tokyo required a late goal from Brazilian striker Diego to take a share of the spoils.

Kyoto Sanga FC beat Montedio Yamagata 2-1 in front of 10,523 fans at Nishikyogoku Stadium, to maintain their grip on third place in the standings.

In nearby Osaka 20,170 fans turned out at Nagai Stadium, and the home fans didn't leave disappointed as Cerezo Osaka crushed visitors Avispa Fukuoka 4-0. The victory keeps Cerezo's slim promotion hopes alive.

Consadole Sapporo lead the way on 87 points, but with Tokyo Verdy breathing down their necks on 85 points, Sapporo can ill-afford another slip-up. Kyoto Sanga FC currently hold down the promotion/relegation play-off place on 81 points, but Vegalta Sendai and Cerezo Osaka are still in the race on 80 and 78 points respectively.

Emperor's Cup

The Fourth Round of the Emperor's Cup was concluded on November 7, with Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale both advancing.

Gamba had to come from behind to beat J2 side Montedio Yamagata on penalties, after Yamagata had raced out to a two goal lead courtesy of strikes from Yohei Toyota and Tatsuya Ishikawa. Gamba responded through goals from Ryuji Bando and Takahiro Futagawa, and the Osakans ultimately prevailed 5-3 on penalties.

Kawasaki Frontale had an easier time against Gamba's cross-town rivals Cerezo Osaka, winning 3-0 at Todoroki Stadium thanks to goals from Juninho, Yusuke Mori and Chong Tese. Gamba Osaka will now face Oita Trinita and Kawasaki Frontale will play Vissel Kobe in the Fifth Round of the competition.

Teruyoshi Ito reaches 400 J-League games

Shimizu S-Pulse midfielder Teruyoshi Ito became only the second player to reach 400 games in the J-League.

The gritty defensive midfielder became the first player to reach the milestone having played all 400 games for the same club, with current Nagoya Grampus Eight midfielder Toshiya Fujita having played the bulk of his games for Jubilo Iwata.

The Shimizu-born Ito started his career in the J-League's inaugural season in 1993, and he went on to be capped 27 times by his country, representing Japan at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Shimizu S-Pulse midfielder Teruyoshi Ito

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