Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nagoya flex their muscles

Nagoya Grampus have taken a massive step towards their first ever title after demolishing fellow contender Shimizu S-Pulse on the weekend.

It was just one of a number of shock results across the league that has had a big impact on the Championship aspirations of a number of clubs.

In Shizuoka it was shaping up as a titanic battle.

Nagoya, who dropped points last week were up against a fellow contender with critics, who dismiss their title credentials given their relatively poor form against fellow “big” sides, ready to pounce on another slip up.

Shimizu were looking to get their title challenge back on track and what better time to do it than against the league leaders.

And they were looking on track when Takuma Edamura struck just after half time to put the home side ahead.

But they weren’t prepared for what happened next. Four goals in 20 minutes, including a hattrick to Keiji Tamada blew S-Pulse out of the water. To make things worse Keisuke Iwashita was also shown a straight red card, leaving S-Pulse to play out the last 20-odd minutes with only 10-men.

Josh Kennedy, who hadn’t scored since August 22, completed his brace in the 83rd minute to again put him clear at the top of the goalscoring charts with 13.

The 1-5 loss put a dagger through S-Pulse’s title hopes, leaving them 10 points adrift of Nagoya and with only one win in their last seven. If they don’t rediscover their early season form they won’t even qualify for the AFC Champions League.

Meanwhile at Saitama Stadium, Urawa Reds hosted fellow midtable side Albirex Niigata. Both sides were in desperate need of a win to maintain their respective hopes of finishing in the top three.

Urawa have started to discover some form in the last few weeks and were confident of taking their first home win since May, whilst Niigata were looking to arrest a three-game winless streak.

Urawa were dealt a blow early when young defender Matthew Spiranovic went off injured, with reports after the game confirming a hamstring injury that will see the defender sidelined for 8 weeks.

Neither side managed any real clear cut chances in the first half, but with half time looming Yosuke Kashiwagi struck with a beautiful shot from outside the box into the top corner to give Urawa the advantage.

The second half was a mirror of the first, with both sides struggling to create any real opportunities and it was from a scrap in the box that saw Urawa score their second to seal the game in the 81st minute.

The win lifts Urawa up the 8th on equal points with Niigata and with a sniff of achieving an unlikely top five finish.

In a mouthwatering clash at the Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki Frontale hosted Gamba Osaka who had snuck up on the rest of the competition to sit in fourth before the weekend’s action.

Akira Nishino’s side had started the season slowly, but their form over the last 2 months has seen them gradually climb up the table to the point where they are now a genuine chance for the title.

It was the Osaka outfit who started the brightest and they should have taken the lead in the 9th minute when Takashi Usami rounded the keeper only to see his shot bounce back off the post.

They wouldn’t have to wait long for the opening goal, however, as Sota Nakazawa rose above Takashi Aizwaa to head home from the goal line.

Kawasaki were quickly back on level terms though after a neat finish from Masaru Kurotsu. It was Route 1 football from Kawasaki, but Kurotsu’s pace saw him race past the Gamba defence to slot home the equaliser.

Were it not for a heavy first touch from Vitor Junior Kawasaki would’ve taken the lead on 31 minutes, but his first touch took him wide and made it easy for the keeper.

On the verge of half time Usami missed a golden chance to seal his brace when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box with Aizawa out of position, but he could only sky his shot and the sides went into the break at 1-1.

Both sides created plenty of chances in the second half, but neither side could find the killer finish. That was until Brazilian striker Lucas received the ball 30 yards out in the 86th minute.

Without too much thought he turned to face goal and let rip with a stunning long range effort that cannoned into the back of the net.

That was enough for Gamba to hold on to a 2-1 lead which sees them replace cross town rivals Cerezo in third spot, which will delight the Gamba faithful.

Elsewhere over the weekend Yokohama F.Marinos were left to rue plenty of missed chances as they suffered a shock loss at home to relegation threatened Vegalta Sendai; FC Tokyo slipped further down after another home loss, this time to Omiya Ardija. The capital outfit now sit inside the relegation zone and are a genuine chance of being relegated.

Cerezo Osaka showed their first signs of slipping with a 0-0 draw with Vissel Kobe after losing a thriller in the Osaka Derby last week. These dropped points could come back to bite them at the end of the season, something with Cerezo fans know all too well.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima held Kashima Antlers to a 1-1 draw at home, Montedio Yamagata and Shonan Bellmare also finished 1-1, a result that doesn’t do any side any favours as they fight for survival.

And finally, Jubilo Iwata probably sealed their survival with a 0-1 away win at Kyoto Sanga who look destined to be relegated to J2 for the first time since 2007.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you mentioned Urawa and a hope of "finishing in the top three" in the same paragraph. We're looking at 8-10th at best and we'd be lucky to scrape even 15 points in the rest of our games.

    But that's optimism at its best!