Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nagoya extend their lead...again!

Kennedy celebrates his 14th J.League goal
They did it the hard way, coming from a goal down, but Nagoya have once again extended their lead at the top of the J.League table.

Their 2-1 win over Vegalta Sendai, which was only sealed two minutes from time when Yoshizumi Ogawa scored on the break, puts them nine points clear on top with just nine games to play.

Vegalta shocked everyone when they took the lead in the 22nd minute through Ryang Yong-gi’s beautiful strike from the edge of the box. They almost doubled their lead just seconds later when a thunderbolt from all of 35 yards from Naoya Tamura clattered into the crossbar.

Nagoya should have equalised in the 28th minute when Colombian Danilson Cordoba was played through, but he fluffed his lines and pulled his shot wide.

Sendai had their goalkeeper to thank for still being level at half time, with two wonderful saves, one on the goal line, frustrating Nagoya as they went into half time 0-1 down.

Just before the hour mark, however, Nagoya were gifted a chance to equalise when Kodai Watanabe was adjudged to have fouled Australian striker Josh Kennedy in the box.

After winning the penalty, Kennedy then stepped up to the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way to get Nagoya back on level terms. The sighs of relief could be heard all around Mizuho Stadium.

The goal was Kennedy’s 14th of the season and puts him two clear on top of the Golden Boot standings.

A goal line scramble in the 61st minute almost saw Japanese international Tulio Tanaka slot home a second for Nagoya, but he couldn’t quite get enough power on his shot.

Both sides continued to create scoring chances and it looked as though Nagoya would drop points for the second time in three weeks before Ogawa’s late strike.

In Saitama battle lines were drawn as Omiya Ardija and Urawa Reds fought for local bragging rights in the Saitama Derby.

Much to the annoyance of the Ardija faithful, the club once again decided to play their “home” game at Urawa’s larger Saitama Stadium instead of at their usual home ground, NACK 5 Stadium, which has a capacity of just 15,500.

Whilst from a financial point of view it may have worked, with more than 33,000 attending, the loss of a true home ground advantage was crucial.

Already angry Ardija fans would have been ropeable after Urawa scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes.

Kashiwagi celebrates his goal in the Saitama Derby

The first came after just 5 minutes when Yosuke Kashiwagi’s delicate chip inside the box found Hiroyuki Takasaki, who headed home the opening goal.

Just ten minutes later, Edmilson’s run carved open the Ardija defence before the Brazilian cut the ball back for that man Kashiwagi to score Urawa’s second with a delightful chip/shot from just outside the box. Takashi Kitano had no chance of keeping it out.

Just before half time, a mistake from Wilfred Sanou, who has been called up to represent Burkina Faso in an upcoming African Cup of Nations qualifier, gifted Rafael with an opportunity to score, and it was one he took full advantage of as he gave Ardija a sniff going into the break.

Urawa’s most experienced striker, Tatsuya Tanaka, missed a golden opportunity to further extend their lead when Sanou made a great run forward and put in a pinpoint cross to find Tanaka. The Japanese international could only direct his header wide and the chance went begging.

It mattered little however as Urawa held onto their 2-1 lead to record their fourth win in their last seven games and extend their unbeaten run to seven games. It sees them sit in 8th spot and just a handful of points away from the top five.

Their manager, German Volker Finke, was full of praise for his side after the game.

“Our team controlled the game really well and the players were proactive in building up their own style of game during the first half of the match today. Considering the difficult situation we have at the moment, this is something I have to praise,” he said.

But he did recognise that given their form this season, a number of their players got nervous and lost their way when Ardija scored just before half time.

“When we lost a goal, naturally, some of the players started to get a little nervous.

Many of the players are really aware that our team lost many points unnecessarily during this season. For this reason, some of the players started to feel rushed and lost control of the ball after we lost the goal.

I thought that our team was not able to perform well when this happened,” he continued.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Shimizu held Kashima to a 1-1 draw, a result that did neither time any favours as the season draws to a close. Kashima now sit 9 points behind Nagoya with Shimizu a further four points back and now surely out of contention.

Kashima and Shimizu could only manage a 1-1 draw

Sanfrecce Hiroshima did as was expected and defeated struggling Kyoto Sanga 3-0 thanks to a second half brace from Tadanari Lee and a first half strike from Tomoaki Makino.

Just as easily, Kawasaki Frontale accounted for Vissel Kobe 4-0. A brace from Juninho and goals to Masaru Kurotsu and Yusuke Tasaka allowed them to leapfrog Shimizu into fifth place.

Cerezo Osaka returned to form with a 2-1 win over Albirex Niigata who, after a stirring run mid-season have hit the wall, losing four of their last five games.

The result will delight the pink half of Osaka who moved back into third, replacing crosstown rivals Gamba who suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Montedio Yamagata.

Gamba took the lead on the hour, but two goals in three minutes to Yamagata sealed their fate. They now sit 11 points behind Nagoya and you’d have to think their title challenge is over for another year.
On Sunday, Yokohama F.Marinos were held to a surprising 0-0 draw to Jubilo Iwata, who now sit well above the relegation zone and just five points behind the Yokohama outfit.

It’s been a great recovery from Iwata, who won just two of their first nine games.

The last game of the round was a relegation battle and saw FC Tokyo, desperate to avoid the drop for the first time since 1998, take on Shonan Bellmare who sit last and are certain to return straight back to J2 next season.

FC Tokyo celebrate their first win since July
Two goals in two minutes to Masashi Oguro and Naohiro Ishikawa just before half time sent the home fans into raptures and gave Tokyo a crucial 2-0 lead going into half time.

It was a margin they held until the 84th minute when Ricardinho slotted home a third to give Tokyo their first win since 25 July, ironically also against Shonan Bellmare.

Their last win that wasn’t against Shonan was all the way back in May, when they recorded a 3-0 win over Montedio Yamagata.

It was a winless streak that totalled ten games, saw them plummet into the relegation zone and saw coach Hiroshi Jofuku given the boot.

They face another relegation threatened side in Vegalta Sendai next week. They’ll go into that match with renewed confidence knowing a win is crucial in their fight for survival.

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