Monday, June 9, 2008

League Cup quarter-finalists decided in Japan

The sixth and final matchday of Japan's Nabisco League Cup group stage took place on June 8, with six teams advancing to the knock-out stage to join AFC Champions League combatants Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka in the final eight.

The shock of the afternoon came before a crowd of 35,417 at Saitama Stadium, where visitors Nagoya Grampus thumped hosts Urawa Reds 5-1, with in-form striker Keita Sugimoto scoring a hat-trick after coming off the bench at the fifty-seventh minute mark.

It was an unhappy afternoon for Urawa's third-choice goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato, who conceded four goals in the final half hour after Urawa's Tsukasa Umesaki had cancelled out Yoshizumi Ogawa's early first half strike.

Elsewhere Jubilo Iwata beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-0 in the third Shizuoka derby of the season at Yamaha Stadium, with Robert Cullen and Gilsinho capitalising on some sloppy S-Pulse defending.

Jubilo Iwata beat Shimizu S-Pulse at Yamaha Stadium
Shimizu thought they had opened the scoring when Kazuki Hara rattled the net on twenty-seven minutes, however his strike was ruled out for offside.

Jubilo took advantage when Takuya Matsuura curled in an inch-perfect cross for Robert Cullen to steal in behind the defence and nod home the opener after thirty-six minutes, and Jubilo scored a crucial second just before half-time when Gilsinho robbed Shimizu playmaker Jungo Fujimoto of possession before curling an excellent finish beyond Yohei Nishibe in the Shimizu goal.
It wasn't enough for Jubilo to progress, as FC Tokyo sealed second place in the group with a 4-2 thrashing of city rivals Tokyo Verdy, as former Heracles Almelo striker Sota Hirayama scored a hat-trick.
A crowd of 28,542 turned out at Big Swan Stadium, but they went home disappointed as a solitary goal from Brazilian striker Roni saw Yokohama F. Marinos take the points from hosts Albirex Niigata and confirm their place in the final eight of the competition.
The quarter-final line-up sees Kashima Antlers take on Shimizu S-Pulse, JEF United clash with Nagoya Grampus, FC Tokyo take on Oita Trinita and Gamba Osaka battle it out with Kanagawa giants Yokohama F. Marinos. The first leg will take place on July 2, with the return leg scheduled for August 6.
Charity clash draws full house as Japan fans catch a glimpse of Nakata
A crowd of 63,143 packed Nissan Stadium on June 7 as a 'Japan Stars' team led by 31-year-old Hidetoshi Nakata drew 2-2 with a 'World Stars' team coached by the charismatic Jose Mourinho.
The match was played to promote Nakata's Take Action! initiative, but the majority of fans seemed more interested in catching a glimpse of former Japan star Nakata, who retired from football at the end of the 2006 World Cup.
Nakata's team raced out to a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from Masashi Oguro and former Shimizu S-Pulse legend Masaaki Sawanobori, however a brace from ex-Vissel Kobe striker Ilhan Mansiz saw the two teams share the spoils.
The World Stars team was packed with several stars of yesteryear, including former Italian international Salvatore Schillaci and Chilean legend Ivan Zamarano, as well as former Dutch internationals Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids, the latter of whom was voted man-of-the-match despite missing a first half penalty.
Okada's Japan taking strides towards the World Cup

Takeshi Okada's Japan have taken important steps towards the second round of World Cup qualification, taking four points from the six on offer against Middle-East battlers Oman.

On June 2 Japan hammered Japan 3-0 at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, with Yuji Nakazawa, Yoshito Okubo and Shunsuke Nakamura scoring the goals.

After a change of coach Oman put up much sterner resistance in the sweltering Omani capital Muscat on June 7, and Japan needed a late penalty save from Nagoya Grampus shot-stopper Seigo Narazaki to steal a share of the spoils.

Ahmed Al Mahaijri opened the scoring for Oman after just twelve minutes, however Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo equalised from the penalty spot in the second half.

Both sides were reduced to ten men, but it was Narazaki who proved the hero for the Japanese, saving Fawzi Doorbeem's late penalty to keep Japan on track for a place at the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010.

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