With four games remaining until the mid-season break, Gamba Osaka have opened up a seven point gap over nearest rivals Urawa Reds.
Gamba’s last match was a case of top versus bottom, but they had a tough time against Yokohama FC, eventually winning 2-1 in front of a near-capacity crowd of 19,752 fans at Expo ’70 Stadium in Osaka.
Kawasaki Frontale lost ground when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Nagoya Grampus Eight in front of 21,190 fans at Toyota Stadium. Veteran midfielder Toshiya Fujita opened the scoring for Nagoya from the penalty spot less than sixty seconds into the match, before Juninho equalised for the visitors after twenty-two minutes. Norwegian international Frode Johnsen restored Bandar Poker Online Nagoya’s lead after sixty-five minutes, but just two minutes later young Korean substitute Chong Te-se ensured that Kawasaki went home with a share of the spoils.
Albirex Niigata were the big movers, coming from behind to beat Vissel Kobe 3-1 in front of 38,667 fans at Big Swan Stadium and moving up to fourth place in the J-League as a result. They leapfrogged Kashiwa Reysol, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Omiya Ardija at Kashiwanoha Stadium. That was Omiya’s fifth match unbeaten – although they have only won once during that run – a 1-0 win over bottom club Yokohama FC.
Oita Trinita pulled off a coup recently by announcing that they had re-signed talented midfielder Tsukasa Umesaki from Grenoble, as well as young Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Shunsuke Maeda on loan. They had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Kashima Antlers in front of 21,804 fans at the Kyushu Oil Dome in their most recent J-League fixture, although it was midfielder Daisuke Takahashi who scored twice – including a last minute goal, to salvage a point for the hosts.
Shimizu S-Pulse and FC Tokyo put on a clinic of long-range finishing at Nihondaira Stadium on June 10, but it was the club from the capital who came out on top, triumphing 3-1 over their hosts.
FC Tokyo opened the lead when the pacy Norio Suzuki burst through down the left hand side and crashed an unstoppable left-foot drive passed Yohei Nishibe in the Shimizu goal. Not to be outdone, Shimizu midfielder Akihiro Hyodo then produced a candidate for goal of the season, beating Yoichi Doi with a fabulous left-foot strike from all of thirty yards, just seconds before the half-time whistle.
The turning point of this match came barely sixty seconds after the half-time whistle, when Norio Suzuki once again broke clear down the left hand side and deceived Nishibe with a cool finish that beat the S-Pulse shot-stopper at his near post. Substitute Yuta Baba then cracked home a curling long range strike that crashed down off the crossbar and in off the back of the hapless Nishibe.
Jubilo Iwata fans were celebrating the return of long-term injury casualty Ryoichi Maeda at Kose Sports Park Stadium in Kofu. Making his first start of the season, Maeda scored twice as Jubilo thrashed home team Ventforet Kofu 6-1. Yoshiaki Ota also scored a double, while midfielders Fabricio and Naoya Kikuchi scored one each, with Jubilo coach Adilson afforded the luxury of resting Japan Olympic team striker Bobby Cullen, thanks to the return of Maeda.
Consadole Sapporo still lead the way in J2, despite becoming the latest big-name team to lose to lowly Ehime FC. Sapporo lost 2-1 at Ehime Athletics Stadium in the midweek round of matches on June 13, and nearest challenger Vegalta Sendai took advantage by beating Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 in front of 11,301 fans at Yurtec Sendai Stadium.
Cerezo Osaka recorded a much-needed away victory, hammering Tokushima Vortis 4-0, but third-placed Kyoto Sanga FC crashed 2-0 away at Sagan Tosu, while Thespa Kusatsu held Tokyo Verdy to a 0-0 draw.
Naoya Kikuchi arrested
Jubilo Iwata midfielder Naoya Kikuchi was arrested on June 13 on suspicion of having sex with a minor.
Kikuchi has admitted to having sex with a 15 year old girl in late May, in violation of local laws. The encounter came to light after Kikuchi attempted to hand the girl 10,000 yen in cash, and accidentally left his wallet in the basket of the girl’s bicycle.
The girl was allegedly unaware that the 22 year old Kikuchi was a professional footballer, and after handing his wallet in to police, the member of Japan’s 2004 Olympic squad in Athens was questioned and ultimately arrested.
Atsuhiro Miura suspended
Former Japan international Atsuhiro Miura has been suspended by his club Vissel Kobe for making derogatory comments directed at Kobe coach Hiroshi Matsuda.
After returning from a broken toe, Miura has been unable to force his way back into the Kobe starting eleven.
He allegedly made the comments after a reserve-team Satellite League game against Nagoya Grampus Eight on June 3. Miura has voluntarily stepped down as captain of Vissel Kobe.
A3 Champions Cup
The A3 Champions Cup took place in Jinan, China this week, with 2006 J-League champions Urawa Reds representing the J-League.
The tournament, which pits the champions of Japan, Korea and China – plus one other team from the host nation against each other, saw Urawa take on K-League champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Chinese Super League champions Shandong Luneng and runners-up Shanghai Shenhua United.
Urawa lost their first match to Shandong 4-3, before beating Seongnam 1-0 in a spiteful encounter. Ryota Tsuzuki saved a penalty from Seongnam’s Brazilian striker Mota in that match, before sparking a wild melee by standing over the striker who was lying disconsolate on the ground. Shanghai Shenhua were knocked out of the AFC Champions League by Urawa, but they extracted a measure of revenge by beating the Reds 3-1 in their final A3 Champions Cup match.
The scheduling of the tournament forced the postponement until Wednesday, August 1 of Urawa’s Round 14 J-League clash with Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Saitama Stadium. Urawa’s next J-League match is a tough encounter with near-neighbours FC Tokyo at Ajinomoto Stadium on June 17.
Japan National Teams
Two encouraging performances in the Kirin Cup have renewed the confidence of Japan fans ahead of the upcoming Asian Cup.
Japan beat Montenegro 2-0 at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi on June 2, courtesy of goals from Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuji Nakazawa and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara.
The Blue Samurai overwhelmed their opponents, and they took the lead when Nakazawa produced a towering header from Yasuhito Endo’s cross after twenty-three minutes. Fifteen minutes later the impressive Yuichi Komano delivered a pinpoint cross for Takahara to flick home at the near post, as Montenegro had no answer to Japan’s attacking football.
The closest the visitors came was in the sixty-seventh minute, but captain Igor Burzanovic rolled a spot-kick wide after he had been brought down in the box.
Japan turned in an even more impressive performance three days later, but they were unable to break the deadlock in a 0-0 draw with Colombia at Saitama Stadium. That result was enough to see Japan lift the Kirin Cup, but fans will be more pleased with the stylish football offered by “Osim’s Japan,” with Naohiro Takahara in particularly good form.
Japan Olympic Team
After winning all six Bandar Poker Online of their opening group matches in the gruelling Olympic qualification tournament, Japan have been rewarded with a tough-looking Final Round draw in their bid to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Japan have been drawn in Group C with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Vietnam. The Saudi’s relegated Australia into second place in their opening group, while Vietnam edged out Lebanon into top spot in their group.
The four group winners will join hosts China as Asia’s football representatives at the Olympics.
Japan Women’s Team
Nadeshiko Japan lead their Final Round Group A with ten points from four games played. Japan dropped their first points of the campaign by drawing 2-2 with Korea Republic at Bucheon Stadium on June 10.
Japan next travel to Vietnam on August 4, before returning to Japan to play what could be a decisive final group match against second-placed Thailand on August 12.