Monday, 26 May 2008

Nagoya Ease Past Urawa to Extend NC Lead

Grampus move three points clear of Vissel at the top of Group A in Yamazaki Nabisco Cup qualifying, with a comfortable 4-2 win over Urawa at Toyota Stadium. The win puts them in with a strong chance of clinching qualifying for the knock-out stage next week, when they travel to Kyoto.

Goals by Ogawa, Sugimoto, Maki and Tsuda mean that Nagoya is the only team in Group A with a positive goal difference.

Koji Nishimura
Shohei Abe, Takahiro Masukawa, Akira Takeuchi, Milos Bajalica
Magnum (Masaki Fukai 58), Naoshi Nakamura, Atsushi Yoneyama (Kei Yamaguchi 65), Yoshizumi Ogawa
Yuki Maki, Keita Sugimoto (Tomohiro Tsuda 82)

Urawa Reds
Norihiro Yamagishi
Shunsuke Tsutsumi, Satohi Horinouchi, Keisuke Tsuboi
Takahito Soma, Hideki Uchidate, Nouhisa Yamada, Masayuki Okano (Hiroyuki Takasaki HT)
Edmilson, Tatsuya Tanaka (Genki Haraguchi 62), Yuichiro Nagai (Yoshiya Nishizawa)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Grampus Swamp Consadole in Second Half Surge

After a lacklustre first half, Nagoya come out firing on all cylinders to earn a 3-1 away win in Sapporo and go into the mid-season break level with Urawa at the top of the league.

Consadole Sapporo:
Takahiro Takagi
Shusuke Tsubouchi, Shingo Shibata, Mitsuyuki Yoshihiro, Yasuhiro Hiraoka
Daigo Nishi, Hironobu Haga, Claiton, Makoto Sunagawa
Hiroki Miyazawa, Davi

Seigo Narazaki
Shohei Abe, Takahiro Masukawa, Maya Yoshida, Milos Bajalica
Magnum (Toshiya Fujita 84), Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura (Keita Sugimoto 67), Yoshizumi Ogawa
Frode Johnsen (Atsushi Yoneyama 82), Keiji Tamada

Big Weekend for J League and Grampus

This weekend was a good day for the J.League, with Gamba Osaka downing the Urawa Reds in Urawa to blow the championship race wide open again. Even if Osaka needed a bit of help from the officials, who were conned by Gamba's Bare quickly taken throw-in, even though it should actually have been an Urawa throw-in. Nevertheless, although the officiating left the league with egg on its face again, the results leaves the title race nicely poised.

The league goes into its one-month-long break with Urawa and Nagoya level on 26 points at the top and with FC Tokyo three points back in third. Although kashima and Gamba lie seven points off the pace, they do have a game in hand, and should still be able to mount a challenge for the title come December. For Grampus, the break gives players like Nakamura and Yoshimura, who have been working their socks off, a chance to recharge their batteries. It also gives improving youngsters Yoshida and Ogawa a chance to absorb some of their experiences from the early games.

J1 Results for May 17/18
Consadole Sapporo 1-3 Nagoya Grampus
Urawa Reds 2-3 Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 1-2 FC Tokyo
Kyoto Sanga 1-0 Yokohama Marinos
Kashima Antlers 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol
JEF United 1-0 Oita Trinita
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 Omiya Ardija
Tokyo Verdy 4-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Albirex Niigata

Friday, 9 May 2008

VVV Sink Back to Lower Division

VVV Venlo and Keisuke Honda sink to a 2-0 loss and a swift return to the second tier of the Dutch league.

Honda has been reported as saying he would like to stay with the team, even if they went down, and playing in a lower division certainly did not do Daisuke Matsui any harm when he moved to France. It would give Honda a chance to adjust to the more physical nature of European football, while his skill should be more decisive and give him a chance to integrate with the team more thoroughly. However, financial considerations may see him move elsewhere. It will be interesting to see whether footballing reason or the interests of agents' commissions prevail.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Nagoya Ease Past Tokyo to Reclaim Top Spot (Briefly)

Despite the brief gap since the last game, Grampus control the opening half during which Tokyo had no answer to the pressure and quicker movement of the visitors. During this period, Keita Sugimoto burst through the middle to latch onto an Ogawa ball into space and clip the ball past the advancing keeper and into the net. Although Nagoya remained comfortably in control throughout the half, they were unable to get a second goal that would have allowed them to ease off the pace a little.

The second half saw FC Tokyo make more of a fight of the game, and was a much more even affair. Indeed FC Tokyo had chances to score, with Cabore going close almost immediately after the restart, and Yusuke Kondo blasting a PK against the bar. (Although Narazaki can have few complaints about conceding the PK, since his sprawling attempt to get the ball failed to do so, TV replays clearly showing that Cabore just got to the ball first, a yellow card seemed a bit harsh.)

While the home team improved in the second half, they still did not look like a team that will be challenging for the title come the end of the season. Nagoya on the other hand used good team work and timely substitutions to maintain their lofty position, the win taking them briefly back to the top of the table. Of course, Urawa were playing the hapless JEF so the Reds were to reclaim top spot later in the afternoon. While Grampus still do not have enough depth to mount a sustained challenge for the title, I do not expect them to drop too far off the pace and summer signings might just bring them up to a level that could challenge for a top three spot.

FC Tokyo:
Hitoshi Shiota
Yuto Nagatomo, Ryuji Fujiyama, Hideki Sahara, Yuhei Tokunaga
Naotake Hanyu (Yohei Otake HT), Ryoichi Kurosawa (Naohiro Ishikawa 76), Jo Kanazawa, Yasuyuki Konno
Cabore, Shingo Akamine (Yusuke Kondo 60)

Seigo Narazaki
Shohei Abe, Takahiro Masukawa, Maya Yoshida, Milos Bajalica
Magnum (Akira Takeuchi 85), Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura (Kei Yamaguchi 88), Yoshizumi Ogawa
Frode Johnsen, Keita Sugimoto (Takashi Yoneyama 69)

Other J1 Results for Round 11
Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers have ACL games on Wednesday, so there are two less games than originally scheduled for today.
Consadole Sapporo 1-3 Tokyo Verdy
Kashiwa Reysol 3-0 Vissel Kobe
Urawa Reds 3-0 JEF United
Jubilo Iwata 1-4 Kawasaki Frontale
Albirex Niigata 3-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Yokohama Marinos 1-1 Omiya Ardija

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Honda and VVV Live to Fight Another Day

Former Grampus midfielder Keisuke Honda helps his team earn a 1-0 win at home in the play-offs to decide promotion/relegation to the Dutch top division. AFter losing the away leg 0-1 earlier in the week, this means that Honda and company will play a third game this Thursday.

It now looks probable that if VVV fail to survive, they may be forced to allow Honda a transfer, which looks like to may be to Portsmouth in the English Premier League.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Clueless League Officials Exonerate "Drop Dead" Ref

As expected, the J League applied liberal coatings of whitewash when it came to "investigating" Yuichi Nishimura's verbal abuse of players. Nishimura, who was roundly jeered when announced as the match official at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, was accused of telling a player to "drop dead" during last week's game between FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita.

Despite reports that other players confirmed the referee's verbal abuse, in the absence of undeniable evidence the bureaucrats have sided with one of their own. Maybe fans should just chant "Die, Die, Die" each time Nishimura takes charge of a game from now on, since Gaptain Gormless seems nervous about all the fuss.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Gamba Edge Past Improving Grampus

Gamba Osaka leave Toyota Stadium with all three points in an entertaining game i front of 34,000 fans. Two goals from the ever dangerous Bare, ether side of an Ogawa special, saw the Osaka team earn a deserved 2-1 win.

Although Gamba got off to the slightly better start, it was Grampus that first forced a 'keeper to make a serious save. Matsuyo being forced to palm away a good effort by Tamada, with Osaka fortunate to see the loose ball cleared by a defender before Johnsen could pounce. However, both teams continued to probe with some quick passing while both teams were quick to try and put pressure on their opponents. This was were Gamba's extra experience and class showed, finding their team mates with one-touch passes under pressure more consistently than the home team. Having said that, they needed to be because Nagoya still managed to create several opportunities and were far from outclassed.

It took a typical bullish run by Bare to open the scoring, when he latched onto a through ball through the middle and took advantage to a moment's hesitation by Bajalica and a rare slip by Yoshida to see a deflected shot wrong-foot Narazaki after 24 minutes. The young defender seemed overly harsh on himself, looking very dejected after the goal, but soon bounced back to his normal self. Thereafter, Bare found it much harder to create any space when paired one-on-one with Yoshida. A harsh lesson, but one that can only serve the future national team defender well. While Nagoya probed and prodded to create the equalizer, they lacked the finesse to prize open the Osaka defense. This took a 20-yard screamer from Ogawa eleven minutes later, the ever improving midfielder collecting a pass from Nakamura and unleashing a rising shot that left Matsuyo flailing at thin air. Both teams continued to play neat, attractive football but the only other real chance came towards the end of the opening half when Nakamura free kick was well saved by the Osaka goalie.

Although Gamba had looked the have a slight edge in the first half, the second half was a much more even contest, with Grampus competing on an equal footing in nearly all areas of the pitch. Unfortunately, Bare was again to prove that on his good days, he is almost impossible to tame. But first, speedster Keita Sugimoto came on for the visibly hobbling Tamada early in the half and almost immediately created a chance when a cross-shot proved just a bit to hot for Johnsen to deflect into the bottom corner. The big Norwegian's touch slipping just the wrong side of the post. A couple o minutes later saw another golden opportunity go begging, when Sugimoto burst through from the right but saw his fierce shot clip the cross-bar. Both teams traded half-chances, with a Yasuda shot comfortably saved by Narazaki and a Johnsen effort in front to goal fortuitously ricocheting off an unsighted defender. Unfortunately for the home team, Bare was to clinch the three points for the visitors. The Brazilian marksman beating Narazaki at the near post, with a sharp turn and shot from a narrow angle after the 'keeper had steered him a away from goal after a through ball from Endo.

Although the loss, the third in a row, is worrying, the style of the Magoya performance and the fact that they are still only one point off the pace, show the improvement from last year. Provided the team does not dwell on the results and considers it position, and the fact they are now able to compete with the best teams in the league over a full 90 minutes, they should soon be back to winning ways. For Gamba this was a well-earned three points from a skillful and hard-working performance, that saw new recruit Lucas start to look an asset to the team. Rather than trying to compete with Bare and Bando for attention at the front, he dropped back into a more creative position and was instrumental in some of the team's best moves.

Seigo Narazaki
Shohei Abe, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Akira Takeuchi
Magnum (Takashi Yoneyama 63), Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura (Toshiya Fujita 77),
Frode Johnsen, Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 51)

Gamba Osaka:
Naoki Matsuyo
Akira Kaji, Sota Nakazawa, Satoshi Yamaguchi, Michihiro Yasuda (Shu Kurata 85)
Hideo Hashimoto, Yasuhito Endo, Takahiro Futagawa (Hiroki Mizumoto 77)
Lucas, Ryuji Bando (Masato Yamazaki 55), Bare

Other J1 Results for Round 10
Kyoto Sanga 1-0 Consodole Sapporo
Omiya Ardija 0-3 FC Tokyo
Tokyo Verdy 3-2 Yokohama Marinos
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-1 Jubilo Iwaata
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Urawa Reds
Oita Trinita 3-1 Albirex Niigata
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Kawasaki Frontale 3-2 Kashima Antlers

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Grampus Fall to First Home Loss in League

A lethargic first half performance proves too hard to overcome as Nagoya slip up against Kawasaki, a result that sees them dispossessed of top spot in the league table. (And about time too. Now perhaps teams will concentrate their efforts on downing Urawa and Kashima again. )

In a game that saw both Yoshimura and Yoshida rested, Nagoya got off to a slow start that saw them trailing 1-2 at half time. Although they improved in the second half and had several chances to get an equalizer, they could not make them count and slipped to another defeat.

Seigo Narazaki
Shohei Abe, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Takashi Miki
Magnum, Naoshi Nakamura (Toshiya Fujita 70), Kei Yamaguchi (Keita Sugimoto 56), Masaki Fukai (Ogawa 56)
Frode Johnsen, Keiji Tamada

Kawasaki Frontale:
Eiji Kawashima
Hiroki Ito, Shuhei Terada, Yusuke Igawa
Satoru Yamagishi, Kazuhiro Murakami (Yusuke Tasaka 80), Kengo Nakamura, Hiroyuki Taniguchi, Kosuke Kikuchi (Tomonobu Yokoyama 89)
Juninho, Chong Tese (Masaru Kurotsu 62)

Other J1 Results for Round 9
Kashiwa Reysol 0-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata 2-0 Kyoto Sanga
Albirex Niigata 0-0 Tokyo Verdy
Urawa Reds 4-2 Consadole Sapporo
FC Tokyo 1-0 Oita Trinita
Yokohama Marinos 3-0 JEF United
Kashima Antlers 2-2 Vissel Kobe
Gamba Osaka 2-3 Omiya Ardija