Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Grampus Edge Emperor's Cup Thriller

A tense, thrilling Emperor's Cup semi-final sees Nagoya earn the first place in the final. Sugimoto's final penalty kick bounds into goal after rebounding off the S-Pulse goalie, after the teams ended 1-1 after regulation and extra time.

Nagoya got off to the better start, looking the better team for the opening 10 minutes. A Yoshimura shot from Josh lay-off fizzed past a post, but they failed to really test Yamamoto. Shimizu gradually got into the game and am Okazaki looping shot drifted over as they begam to look the sharper team. This was soon followed by a Fujimoto shot that was easily saved by Narazaki. They duly took the lead when Okazaki latched onto long through-ball to beat a hesitant Narazaki to the ball and flick it into an unguarded goal. Nagoya's efforts were hampered by slow buildups and poor crosses meant a Kennedy looping header that drifted wide was one of their few serious efforts. S-Pulse continued to look the sharper team and Fujimoto sent a powerful shot straight at Narazaki, that was easily saved. As the half wound down, Maya Yoshida sent a glancing header from a corner agonizingly wide.

HT: 1-0

Nagoya started the second much as they did the first, and this time looked a bit more purposeful and effective. This was exemplified when Josh sent a crashing header against the bar, from a deep Alex cross. And alathough Okazaki sent a flying header from a Frode cross flashing wide, as he was challenged by Yoshida. Kennedy proved a constant problem for the Shizuoka team and Yokoyama conceded PK as he tangles with the lanky forward in box. Tamada calmly converted the PK to level the scores. Unfortunately flaps at resultant corner. Josh makes good turn on edge of box, but his cross from the bye-line was a bit too long to find a red shirt. Live-wire Okazaki then sent a close-range effort from Frode Johnsen's lay-off wide of post. The former Grampus striker then made a good turn in the Grampus area to break clear, but Maya made a crucial block to send his goal-bound effort for a corner. S-Pulse midfielder, Hyodo then sent a long-range effort harmlessly over Narazaki's bar. Grampus sub Sugimoto made a useful break down the left after an Alex interception, but blazed wide when he had time to pick out a red shirt. The final action of regulation saw another Hyodo blast sail over.

FT: 1-1

Midfield dynamo Kei Yamaguchi replaced Igor Burzanovic at start of extra time and was promptly called on to head a Johnsen header off the line. The game then entered a decisive period as Narazaki denied Okazaki with some blinding saves to keep us in the game. This eventually meant that as the game went to penalties, we ere always in the stronger position as the Japan keeper's reputation was always going to put pressure on the S-Pulse kickers.

Penalties: Kennedy nets first with clinical kick. Ichikawa then smashed his against bar to make it 1-0 after the first kicks. Alex then made it 2-0 before Kodama nets his to make it 2-1. Tamada, Hara, Ogawa and Okazaki all converted their kicks to set the stage for Sugimoto. He sent his effort dramatically into the bar, but the ball rebounded off the underside of the woodwork and trickled into the goal off the prostrate Yamamoto. And thus we advanced to the final, 5-3 on penalties.

Shimizu S-Pulse
Kaito Yamamoto
Daisuke Ichikawa, Yasuhiro Hiraoka, Arata Kodama, Yusuke Ohta
Akihiro Hyodo (Hara 112), Takuya Honda, Masaki Takuma Edamura, Jungo Fujimoto (Shinji Tsujio 84)
Shinji Okazaki, Jun Nagazawa (Frode Johnsen HT)
Scoer: Okazaki 16

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Takahiro Masukawa, Maya Yoshida, Alex Santos
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 74), Keiji Yoshimura (Yuki Maki 115), Igor Burzanovic (Kei Yamaguchi 90)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy
Scorer: Tamada 56 (PK)

Other Coverage
Australian FourFourTwo: Emperor's Final Spot For Josh

Ouch! Gamba GKs falling like flies

Gamba Osaka go into today's Emperor's Cup semi-final against Sendai having to field their third choice goalie. Both Fujiigaya and Matsuyo are down with the flu.

GK受難!藤ケ谷インフルに続き松代が打撲…G大阪ピンチ - スポーツ報知 - Yahoo!スポーツ from Yahoo Japan Sports

Monday, 28 December 2009

Maya Headed to VVV

Nagoya's 21-year old defender Maya Yoshida will be joining VVV Venlo in the new year, on a 2 1/2 year contract. Having just been called up to the Japan national squad, I am little surprised that this move went ahead. Yoshida's slim chances of making the Japan squad for South Africa have probably disappeared altogether. However, if he can settle in at VVV and adapt to the more physical game in Europe, then it will be good news for Japan in the future.

Announcement of Maya's tranfer (Japanese)

(This announcement would have been made after the Emperor's Cup, but Yoshida foolishly allowed himself to be photographed at a farewell party and this appeared on somebody's blog, forcing the club into the rather hurried announcement.)

After the release of Milos Bajalica earlier in the week, this leaves us one central defender lighter than we were this season. Tulio and Masukawa had better be fighting fit come 6 March. :-)

Announcement of Bajalica's release (Dec 26) (Japanese)

Other Coverage
Japan Times: Nagoya's Yoshida seals Venlo move
Goal: Japan Defender Maya Yoshida Leaves Nagoya Grampus For VVV Venlo
ChuSpo: 吉田VVV移籍決断

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tulio Joins Grampus

As expected, former Urawa defender Tulio will be joining Grampus next season. Our General Manager, Kazumasa Kume, announced on Tuesday that he had agreed to join, although no official announcement was made until today, since Wednesday was national holiday in Japan.

Grampus Press Release (Japanese)

The rumoured salary of 120 million yen will make him our highest paid player and put him on the same salary as the manager.

ESPN: Japan defender Tulio swaps Urawa for Nagoya
Reuters: Japan defender Tulio agrees to join Nagoya

As was the case with Mu Kanazaki, the prospect of playing under manager Dragan Stojkovic seems to have been a factor in the decision. Let's hope the manager lives up to expectations next year, after a somewhat indifferent second year in charge. With Kanazaki and Tulio in the squad, the team should have a very real chance of challenging for the title, especially if they keep Maya Yoshida, and add another midfielder, as seems to be likely.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Maya and Mu Called Up for Japan Squad

Nagoya's inspirational central defender is added to the Japan squad for the upcoming game against Yemen on 6 January. And about friggin time too. (Not that we really expect Oka-chan to give him a game.)

Mu Kanazaki is also in the squad, but is still listed as an Oita player. (His recent transfer will not be officially registered until the start of the registration period in January.)

The full squad announced of today (21 December). It is a very youthful squad. (The only reason Cerezo's Kagawa is not included is that he is still recovering from the recent operation on his foot.)

GK: Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo), Shusaku Nishikawa (Oita Trinita)

DF: Gotoku Sakai (Albirex Niigata), Taisuke Muramatsu (Shonan Bellmare), Kosuke Ota (Shimizu S-Pulse), Maya (Grampus), Tomoaki Makino (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Naoki Kikuchi (Oita Trinita)

MF: Takuya Aoki (Omiya Ardija), Naoki Yamada (Urawa Reds), Takuji Yonemoto (TC Tokyo), Takashi Inui (Cerezo Osaka), Yosuke Kashiwagi (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Mu Kanazaki (Oita Trinita), Kazuya Yamamura (Ryutsu-kaizai University)

FW: Yuya Osako (Kashima Antlers), Sota Hirayama (FC Tokyo), Kazuma Watanabe (Yokohama Marinos), Kensuke Nagai (Fukuoka University)

Grampus Official PR (Japanese)

Tokyo Avalanche Buries Grampus Kids

OK. It wasn't that cold, and the snow was just a few brief flurries of sleet towards the end of an otherwise pleasant, but crisp afternoon. Unfortunately, the only crispness displayed on the pitch came from the Tokyo U-18s as the romped to a 7-1 victory. (Fortunately, our U-15s and U-12s are a bit more competitive. The U-12s recently won their national tournament, and the U-15s romped to a 6-0 win yesterday.)
23 Dec: It looks as though this result may be a case of FC Tokyo being very good, rather then Grampus being particularly weak. The Gas Boyz romped to a 5-1 win over Gamba Youth in their semi-final.

As for the game itself, a fairly even opening few minutes revealed that not much has changed since Maya Yoshida and company lost to the same opponents four years ago. Grampus looked organized, and tried to pass the ball more effectively than their predecessors, but the Tokyo U-18s were sharper and more direct. Nagoya custodian Furukawa had already been forced into a good save early on before the Tokyo-ites took the lead with a soft looping header from Shigematsu after 17 minutes. They then added two more before the break, a another header (this time by Yamaguchi) and a somewhat dubious penalty converted by Shigematsu. Nagoya meanwhile struggled to create chances, and the defence looked increasingly fragile. In addition to the three goals they scored, Tokyo had seen one good effort slip the wrong side of a post and two more smack the bar.

The second half stared with a flurry of goals, as Umenai extended Tokyo's lead before a brilliant piece of work by Takehara on the left saw him cut along the goal line and score from an impossible angle. (He has also had one dangerous dribble in the first half.) Tokyo then got another even more questionable penalty after Kishi had made a successful challenge that got the ball, but also allowed the forward to go down under the challenge. Not only did the inexperienced ref give the PK, but to add insult to injury Kishi was sent for an early shower. The 10 men were then overwhelmed with three goals over the next three minutes (including the converted PK) before adding an own goal later in the half to complete a miserable afternoon for the team.

A rare foray forward by the Grampus U-18s

This game exposed the vast variation in the level of teams at the U-18 level. Nagoya had progressed to this stage by virtue of their ability to romp equally emphatic victories over the other teams in their qualifying group more effectively than the Kyoto Sanga U-18s. The two games between the Sanga U-18s and Grampus U-18s had been split with each wining by the odd goal. Clearly, Grampus have to find a way to give their youth team some more competitive practice games if they are to raise their game so that they will be able to compete for a title at this level.

FC Tokyo U-18
Che (1)
Hiroki (4), Hiraide (6), Matsufuji (26), Abe (3)
Mita (14), Yamazaki (18), Toshimori (8), Umenai (11)
Shigematsu (10), Yamaguchi (9)
Scorers: Shigematsu 17, 43, Yamaguchi 27, Umenai 48, 65, Mita 65, OG 72
Substitutions: Hoshi for Yamaguchi 50, Sasaki for Toshimori 64, Maeoka for Shigematsu 64, Muto for Mita 68, Kakuda for Umanai 78

Nagoya Grampus U-18
Furukawa (16)
Iwata (2), Kishi (4), Okuyama (19), Andou (8)
(5), Mizuno (27), Obata (9), Miura (6)
Yada (10), Takahara (21)
Scorer: Takahara 49
Substitutions: Onishi for Miura 61, Kawaamoto for Ando 65, Kato for Takahara 82.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Grampus Win Race to Sign Mu

Nagoya sign Mie native Mu Kanazaki from relegated OIta Trinita. This should prove a great signing since the 20-year old Mu is one of the best young midfielders in the league, and he adds some creativity in a position where we badly need it.

If the team succeeds in signing Tulio from Urawa, and keeps key defender Maya Yoshida, then we should have a much better season next year and could well challenge for the title. (Update 21 Dec.: It looks like we may well sign Tulio as well.)

Official Club PR (Japanese)
ChunichiSports Article (Japanese). This adds some additional details such as the fact that it is a three-year contract, and estimated salary.
Japan Times: Sources say Tulio to join Grampus

Kiwis Finish Fifth

New Zealand's Auckland City finish fifth in the FIFA Club World Cup taking place in the UAE. Goals by Jason Hayne and Riki Van Steeden seeing the Kiwis snath victory in the final seconds of the game.

Other Views
BBC Sport: Mazembe beaten by Auckland City

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

CSKA Moscow Keen On VVV Playmaker Keisuke Honda - Report - Goal.com

Yes. The Russians are said to be after Keisuke too. The lad has good English, but not sure about his Russian. :-)
CSKA Moscow Keen On VVV Playmaker Keisuke Honda - Report - Goal.com

In a further development, VVV have said that a deal could soon be agreed IF Honda is interested in going to Russia.
Goal.com Article (Japanese)
(This may be unlikely, he has established himself in Holland and has expressed a preference to move within Holland if possible. Can't see him moving to a new country before the World Cup.)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cerezo to Hang On to Kagawa (till Summer)?

In what could be good news for the pink half of Osaka, it looks like Cerezo may well get to keep Shinji Kagawa until the summer. If the following NikkanSports article is to be believed, Kagawa has rejected a move within Japan, but the club is inserting a clause into his contract that will allow him to transfer to a overseas club after this summer's World Cup. This would be a sensible move for both player and club. It would allow Kagawa to prove himself in J1, without having to rush his rehabilitation after his recent operation, and should allows the club to get a transfer fee when he does leave.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Grampus Youngsters to Clash with Gasboyz (Again)

Its deja vu all over again for followers of the annual J Youth Cup. (This year known as the J Youth Sunstar Tonic Cup.) In a repeat of the clash hat saw the likes of Maya Yoshida, Toru Hasegawa, Oribe, Nikawa, Sho Hanai and Ryota Isomura bow out of the 2006 edition (when it was known as the Sahara Cup), the Grampus U-18s are set to meet their FC Tokyo counterparts at Nagai 2 on Sunday 20 December. Grampus emerged as narrow 1-0 victors against the Cerezo U-18s yesterday.

The full timetable for the semi-finals are:
- Jubilo Iwata Youth vs Kashiwa Reysol U-18, 11 AM KO at Nagai 2 (Osaka)
- FC Tokyo U-18 vs Nagoya Grampus U-18, 2 PM KO at Nagai 2 (Osaka)
- Tokyo Verdy Youth vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth, 11 AM KO at Best Amenity Stadium (Tosu)
- Yokohama Marinos YOuth vs Gamba Osaka Youth, 2 PM KO at Best Amenity Stadium (Tosu)

VVV Climb into Top Half

An early goal, after the keeper spilled a Honda free kick, sparks VVV Venlo to 3-0 win. A result that takes them into the top half of the table. It is beginning to look as though they may well prove good enough to survive in the top division this time.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Josh Speeds Nagoya into Emp Cup Semis

A Josh Kennedy hat-trick sees Nagoya Grampus ease into the semi-finals of the Emperor's Cup. These goals take his total for the season well into double figures, and means the team can sill has a chance to win some silverware this season. (It also saw my cold take a sudden change for the better.)

In a game that saw the J1 team in comfortable control, if not dominant, the lanky Australian scored his tenth goal for the team with a glancing header from a Shohei Abe, just before the break. He then added two more in the second half, one with either foot, to set-up another encounter with Shimizu S-Pulse in the semi-final. (Let's hope the water bottles will be safe from Pixie's boot this time.)

Gifu gave as good as they got in the first half, and could easily have taken the lead themselves in the closely fought opening 45 minutes. However, their chances were thwarted by another impressive showing from Narazaki. He made one good save late in the half to keep the visitors off the scoresheet and Kennedy's strike near the end meant that Nagoya were able to enjoy a far more relaxing second half. Their extra speed, skill and fitness became ever more influential and they eventually ran out as comfortable winners.

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Maya Yoshida 74), Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Sanotos 60), Keiji Yoshimura, Igor Burzanovic (Sho Hanai 81)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy
Scorers: Kennedy 44, 67, 82

FC Gifu
Kyohei Noda
Shinji Tominari, Yoshimoto, Shuto Tanaka, Hideyoshi Akita
Kazunori Kan, Suguru Hashimoto, Kazumasa Takagi (Kazuki Someya 74), Shogo Shimada (Satoshi Otomo 86)
Yudai Nishikawa, Koichi Sato (Takuma Nagayoshi 74)

Other Views
Japan Times: Kennedy's hat-trick shoots Nagoya into Emperor's Cup semis

Friday, 11 December 2009

Another Grampi Struck Down with Flu

Nagoya midfielder Yoshizumi Ogawa has gone down with the flu. (Season A-type flu, not the avian variety.) This means he is likely to miss the Emperor's Cup game against FC Gifu on Sunday, as will the suspended Magnum. Unfortunately for Gifu, Alex Santos and Igor Burzanovic are looking good in training and should prove more than adequate replacements.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Grampus Move to Sign Tulio?

Grampus has revealed that they have made an offer to Urawa's discontented defender, Marcus Tulio, whose contract expired this year. Not sure how realistic this offer is likely to be, but would bolster our defense IF Maya Yoshida remains with the club. That would give us two good central defender, rather than one and several erratic sidekicks. :-)

ChuSpo: Grampus make formal offer for Tulio (in Japanese)
Japan Times (21 Dec): Sources say Tulio to join Grampus

Botti Out for 3-months

Vissel have announced that influential midfielder Botti has had an operation to fix a problem in his lower back, at a hospital in Wakayama. He expected to be out for three months. This makes it doubtful if he will be available for the start of the season.

Vissel Kobe Site: Press release announcing Botti's back operation in Japanese (of course)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Kagawa Recovering Well from Surgery

Cerezo Osaka's midfield star, Shinji Kagawa, seems to recovering well from the operation for the troublesome toe injury. (He seems to have had a screw inserted to fix the problem.) This injury had prevented him from taking full part in several games over the closing stages of the season, and he had the operation as soon as the team had clinched promotion back to J1. (Sorry, can't see any news about this in English yet.)

Cerezo Press Release announcing the operation on November 24 (Japanese)
SpoNichi article about the operation and his possible transfer VVV Venlo (Japanese)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Narazaki Remains Unbeaten

Japan custodian Seigo Narazaki remains unbeaten since his return form injury, maintaining another clean sheet against S-Pulse yesterday. Apart from that, the only other notable interest for Grampus fans was the dismissal of Magnum. This will keep the Brazilian out of the Emperor's Cup tie against GIfu next weekend.

Shimizu S-Pulse
Kaito Yamamoto
Daisuke Ichikawa, Yasuhiro Hiraoka, Arata Kodama, Yusuke Ohta
Akihiro Hyodo, Takuya Honda, Masaki Yamamoto (Takuma Edamura 25), Jungo Fujimoto
Shinji Okazaki, Jun Nagazawa (Frode Johsen 69)

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa (Keito Sugimoto 87), Kei Yamaguchi (Naoshi Nakamura 58), Alex Santos (Keiji Yoshimura 71), Magnum (Sent Off 80)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Japan Draw Holland, Cameroon and Denmark

Japan get a tough group in last night's World Cup draw. They will do well to finish in one of the top two places, with both Cameroon and Denmark likely to fancy their chances of joining Holland in the knockout stages. However, that has not stopped their inexperienced manager bravely (suicidally?) repeat his goal of reaching the semi-finals.

Kyodo News: Soccer: Japan coach Okada sticking to semifinal goal after World Cup draw

Honda Seals Another Venlo Victory

Keisuke Honda scores from the penalty spot late in last night's game against Willem II. A result that sees VVV in 11th place and with a 3-point gap between themselves and the group of five teams near the relegation zone.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Frogs Get their Knickers in a Twist

Having cheated their way to the final qualifying place for World Cup, the French get into a tizzy for not being regarded as one of the best eight teams in the world. :-)

Daily Telegraph: World Cup 2010: France fume at seedings 'injustice'

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Antlers 5 - 1 Gamba (A Tale of Two Different Games?)

Peter's view of the proceeding at Kashima Stadium last weekend, followed by the a link to Alan's blue-rinsed version. :-)

Well, a draw was no good for Gamba and possibly no good for the Antlers. We didn't get one.

Gamba were very lucky to survive continuos pressure for the first 25 minutes. They seemed to have survived that and from about the 25th minute gave as good as they got; from then till Lucas was sent off in the 68th minute this was a cracking game. At HT it still 0-0. From the 56th to the 62nd minute we had four goals in six minutes.

56' 1-0 (Antlers)
58' 2-0
60' 1-2
62' 1-3

68' Lucas sent off
I'm not complaining about Lucas's red card. Sure, the second yellow was doubtful; but the first yellow card was a bad, bad foul. I would have sent Lucas off for the way he protested it; at that time I thought the ref was very weak and too soft on Lucas. But I'm sure Lucas's vigorous protestation of that first yellow must have riled the ref--it should have riled him more.

Gamba fought proudly till the end, despite the final score line.

Shots: 20-12
GKs: 9-16
CKs: 4-2
Poss: 52%-48%

Those stats tell the story: the Antlers were the sharper and the more penetrative despite having only slightly more possession. They played very aggressively in defence, moving on to the Gamba attackers very quickly.

Gamba played the calmer football, but it was the Antlers who showed the real urgency.

Nishino described it as "kanpai"--a decisive and deserved defeat. He was right.

Visit www.jsoccer.com to see Alan's view, which starts with this opening para. :-)
The scoreline doesn't tell the whole story as Gamba took this to Antlers and, but for a few decisions going against them - hello Mr. Yoshida! (two denied PKs, a red card for Lucas) - they could have been in the lead late in this game, instead of having to finish the game in a 1-4-4 formation and leaving themselves open for two more late strikes as they went for goals!

Still not enough? Here are some other reports of the game.
The Japan Times: Oliveira's Antlers move closer to another title
Daily Gomiuri: Antlers crush Gamba, but party still on hold

Monday, 30 November 2009

Grampus Cut Yamaguche, Hirono and Niikawa

Nagoya have announced that they will not be renewing the contracts of three players. Midfield dynamo Kei Yamaguchi, goalie Koichi Hirono and young striker Oribe Niikawa.

Yamaguchi is a bit of a surprise, since he has been a regular and dependable squad player for the last two or three years. However, he has failed to develop into a key player, and should have no problem finding a new club. Young Oribe has failed to demonstrate a consistent goal-scoring touch, even for the satellite team, and is another player (like Yohei Toyoda) who may find J2 a happier hunting ground.

As predicted, here when Toru Hasegawa broke into the first team, Hirono is simply a victim of Hasegawa's progress this season. The young (still only 20-years old) keeper may not be quite ready for the first team, but has improved sufficiently to be considered a reasonable third choice keeper. Koichi will be much better off at a club where he may may get more playing time.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Managers Ring Changes at Toyota

Both managers were forced to make early substitutions, as both Montedio's Miyazawa and our Aussie forward, Kennedy, made way for early replacements. An early goal by Ogawa and an insurance goal by Magnum sees us win comfortably in our final home game of the season.

This was a more convincing performance from the home team, playing with fully-fit squad for the first time in several months. However, it was not to last long. A smack in the eye from a clearance saw Josh Kennedy retire after 30 minutes. The blow left the lanky forward feeling a bit groggy and suffering from blurred vision for a while, but is unlikely to hinder his appearance in the team's final game of the season, apart from sporting a beauty of a shiner. :-)

The match started with Nagoya fielding a nominal 4-4-2 lineup, but actually saw the Tamada and Igor spending most of the game up front to form a 4-3-3 formation. This was partly due to Montedio's failure to pressurize the home team, which allowed them to control the pattern of play. As such, the team's inability to turn this control of the game into more goals is a testament to its need to sign some creative players during the off-season.

Ogawa, who has struggled to find his form of last year, gave Grampus the perfect start as he produced a neat finish from Kennedy's flick-on after 11 minutes. Kennedy, before his departure, Burzanovic and Tamada all had opportunities to extend the lead before half time, but failed to seriously test Kenta Shimizu in the Yamagata goal. The visitors' one shot of the half, came from an Ishikawa free kick that had Narasaki scrambling but failed to find the target.

The second half saw Nagoya continue to dominate possession, but without its big target man up front, the team could not create many clear chances. This allowed Montedio to regain some confidence and make a more determined effort to get back in the game, with both team's having an equal share of the attempts on goal. However, while Yamagata's efforts were all inaccurate, Magnum capitalised on a neat angled pass from the quick-thinking Tamada to make the game safe midway though the half.

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Magnum 64), Keiji Yoshimura, Igor Burzanovic (Alex Santos 77)
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki 31)
Scorers: Ogawa 11, Magnum 76

Montedio Yamagata
Kenta Shimizu
Takuya Miyamoto, Shogo Nishikawa, Hidenori Ishii, Tatsuya Ishikawa
Kohei Miyazaki (Tomayasu Hirose 77), Takumi Watanabe (Tetsuro Ohta 65), Kentaro Sato, Katsuyuki MIyazawa (Tomotaka Kitamura 14)
Yu Hasegawa, Tatuya Furuhashi

Dates for Yer Calendar!

Mark, over at Inter-Lingual.Net, has created a Google Calendar listing football matches and related events in the Kansai region. See the Footy Schedule calendar for details.

J Youth Sunstar Tonic Cup
This is an annual trophy for the U-18 teams of J.League clubs. This year, as has been the case for the last few years, the a couple of the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and final will be held at Nagai Stadium (or the nearby Nagai 2 for the quarter-finals). Admission is free, and is a good opportunity to catch an early glimpse of some future J.League stars.

Sun, Dec 20 J Youth quarter-finals (Nagai Stadium 2)
Wed, Dec 23 J Youth semi-finals (Nagai Stadium)
Sun, Dec 27 J Youth final (Nagai Stadium)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Honda helps VVV rise back up table

A couple of "assists" from the Japan international see his team spank Sparta 5-0 and rise to a mid-table position. For once, this was not a one-man show and augers better for VVV's chances of avoiding the drop straight back down to the second division if Honda departs during the January transfer window.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Narazaki Makes Clean Sheet Comeback

As expected, Japan's first choice goalkeeper, Seigo Narazaki made a return to action in this game. This marked his first game at top level action since breaking a finger in the game against Gamba on 23 August. This game also saw Australian international Kennedy make a return after his somewhat shorter absence of a couple of games. Unfortunately, the team was unable to celebrate the influential duo's return with a victory as the closely fought contest ended 0-0.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Hiroshige Nakabayashi
Tomoaki Makino, Koji Nakajima, Kohei Morita, Ryota Moriwaki
Kazuyuki Morisaki (Koji Morisaki 89), Issei Takayanagi (Tsubas Yokotake 57), Kota Hattori, Yusuke Kashiwagi
Kojiro Takahagi, Hisato Sato (Tadanari Lee 80)

Nagoya Grampus
Seigo Narazaki
Maya Yoshida, Milos Bajalica, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Yuki Maki 68), Alex Santos (Magnum 58)
Igor Burzanovic (Keita Sugimoto 82), Josh Kennedy

Thursday, 19 November 2009

FIFA Match-fixers Hand Victory to French

Septic Bladder and FIFA get the result they want as France are handed the final qualifying place for 2010 World Cup. A blatant handball is overlooked by the Swedish referee to ensure that the "right" team went through.

Looks like the "Fair Play" flag paraded before FIFA games can be replaced with o more honest version, "Farce Play".

Other Views
Guardian: Ireland cheated out of World Cup by cruel hand of Thierry Henry
ESPN: Henry admits handball for winning goal
BBC Panorama: The Beautiful Bung
BBC News: Match-fixing inquiry probes 200 European football games

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Gamba Ease Past Sanga in Kansai Derby

Alan's take on the Kansai Derby between Gamba and Sanga, at Banpaku on the 8th.

20,394 fans came out to fill most of the seats in Banpaku for this Kansai Derby game, with Gamba looking to a maximum three points and some goals to help them in the final run-up for the top sport, or at least an ACL spot. And, after a disappointing draw against Yokohama F Marinos in their last J.League game, this was just what the doctor ordered for the Gamba faithful.

Yasuda got his first start in a while at left back, after Nakazawa injured an ankle in training. Recent left back Takagi moved to partner Yamaguchi in the center to make room for Yasuda. Gamba started, as always, with their patient possession, but Kyoto pressured them into some early mis-placed passes and also tried to hit Gamba on the swift counter-attack. One such event occurred in the 7th minute, when a quick ball out found Yanagisawa and Diego with space to exchange passes, but Fujigaya saved from Yanagisawa. Lucas tested the Kyoto keeper at the other end a minute alter, his shot from distance proving to hot to handle but the keeper scooped it up at the 2nd attempt.

In the 16th minute Fujigaya made a smart reflex save from Sato but this was as good as it got for Kyot, until a final minute goal from Yanagisawa, but we're getting ahead of ourselves now!

Gamba continued with the possession and passing that is their trademark, but Sidiclei, in fine form was dropping deep and bolstering the defence and Kyoto survived by putting men behind the ball until a breakthrough came in the 35th minute. Lcas threaded a superb ball through to Pedro Junior, who turned and twisted Nakatani at last man before blasting past the keeper for the opening goal. Nakatani went down as he tried to turn and keep up with the Gamba forward, and played no further part in the game.

In the 38th minute, Yasuda, who had been up and down the left with enthusiasm, if not effect, cut inside and got off a shot that was saved, the ricochet flying high and Yasuda attempting a bicycle kick on the 2nd attempt, which succeeded only in setting the ball up for Lucas who slid the ball just wide of the post. So Gamba went in at the break one goal to the good, but looking for more.

In the 58th minute, Sidiclei, who had been faultless up to this point, was robbed in midfield by Lucas, the Brazilian then split three defenders with a precision pass to allow Pedro Junior to chalk up his 2nd goal of the game with a blast past the keeper from 15 yards or so. And so the floodgates opened, Endo was by now finding his rhythm in a big way and his passes were opening up space all over the park.

A minute after the goal, Sidiclei, either tiring, or still upset from his mistake - or both - earned himself a yellow card for a desperate push, the free kick from Endo coming close to adding to the score, but it was not long before Endo did influence the scoreline as the Japanese national team midfielder pounced on a loose ball in the midfield, advanced, drew a couple of defenders towards him and slipped the ball to Hashimoto on his right, who made no mistake in drilling past the keeper. 3-0 and looking good for Gamba Osaka.

And it wasn't long before Gamba made it four to the good, Endo and Lucas exchanging smooth passes before the Brazilian almost nonchalantly side-footing the ball through a gap in the defence from 18 yards out and inside the post with the keeper beaten. Perfect placement, precision passing, 4-0! And there was still time for Lucas to hit the bar from a Shimohira (on for Yasuda in the 80th minute) cross, although it was Kyoto who added to the scoreline as Yanagaisawa took advantage of a wicked bobble off Myojin as a corner came over, blasting the inviting bouncing ball into the net to make the final score Gamba Osaka 4-1 Kyoto Sanga.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Disgruntled Davi Missing Japan?

Whilst the rumour mill is suggesting Japan international Marcus Tulio could be joining he exodus to the Middle East, one of the earlier exports is said to be hankering for a return to Japan.

The Daily Cyzo reports that former Consadole Sapporo and Grampus forward Davi is finding it hard to adjust to life in Qatar and wants to return to the J.League. It will be interesting to see if any J1 teams takes an interest in him. It is difficult to see Nagoya doing so, Josh Kennedy is a much better fit for the team than the selfish Brazilian.

Narazaki on Come-back Trail

Japan international 'keeper Seigo Narazaki made a successful return to "competitive" action o Sunday. He started the practice game against Maruyasu Industrial, that saw a Grampus team primarily comprised of our U-18s ease to a 5-0 win.

Emperor's Cup 4th Round

jsoccer.com gives us its views on the Emperor's Cup and its need to make the draw a bit more exciting. This year has seen an improvement over recent years, but the JFA still needs to do better. (Hopefully, next year will see the Nabisco Cup also be made more relevant, by making t a genuine J.League CUp and having both J1 and J2 teams participate.)

Kashima Antlers 2 - 1 Vissel Kobe
(Antlers - Nozawa 55', Danilo 88', Vissel - Ishibitsu 48')

Sagan Tosu 1 - 3 Gamba Osaka
(Sagan - Havenaar 47', Gamba - Lucas 9', Pedro Júnior 40', Myojin 50')

Yokohama F. Marinos 1 - 2 Kawasaki Frontale
(FM - Yamase 57', Frontale - Juninho 32', Yajima 85'

F.C. Tokyo 0 - 3 Vegalta Sendai
(Nakahara 25', Nakashima 59', Marcelo Soares 89')

F.C. Gifu 1 - 0 JEF United Ichihara Chiba
(Yoshimoto 45' )

Nagoya Grampus 3 - 1 Júbilo Iwata
(Nagoya - Yoshimura 42', Yoshida 52', Sugimoto 83', Jubilo - Cullen 5')

Meiji University 1 - 3 Albirex Niigata
(Meiji - Yamamoto 46', Niigata - Oshima 16', Yano Goal 40' & 64')

Shimizu S-Pulse 3 - 0 Ventforet Kofu
(Hara 33', own goal 49', Nagasawa 55')

The quarter finals look like this:

Kashima Antlers v. Gamba Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale v. Vegalta Sendai
F.C. Gifu v. Nagoya Grampus
Albirex Niigata v. Shimizu S-Pulse

The winners of the top two ties play each other and, as can be seen, the three favourites are all in that half of the last eight :-( The bottom half of the quarters shows us that Gifu have a chance to make it "only" having to beat Nagoya and Albirex or S-Pulse to book a final place.... we can but dream.

But isn't it about time the Emperor's Cup went to a drawing format in every round - -la-FA Cup and other tournaments around the world. Once the first round is played, all teams go in the hat for a random draw, the first team in each tie being pulled out of the bag getting the home advantage? Logical, more fun for the fans and a little more exciting as there would be more chances of smaller teams getting their chance of a hit on a big team!!

The current pre-determined draw is boring and predictable, as well as often throwing up, for example, F Marinos vs. FC Tokyo in Kyushu!! What's the point?

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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Grampus Ease Past Jubilo in Tokai Cup Derby, Face Gifu Next

Nagoya eased to a comfortable 3-0 win over local rivals Iwata in the Emperor's Cup. This takes them through to the quarter-finals, where they will meet even more local rivals Gifu.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 66), Alex Santos (Kei Yamaguchi 74)
Igor Burzanovic, Yuki Maki (Milos Bajalica 81)
Scorers: Yoshimura 42, Yoshida 52, Sugimoto 83

Jubilo Iwata
Naoki Hatta
Kosuke Yamamoto, Daisuke Nasu, Takayuki Chano, Jo Kanazawa (Kentaro Oi 57)
Sho Naruoka (Takuya Matsuura 74), Ryu Okada (Hideto Suzuki 59), Keisuke Funatani, Norihiro Nishi (Kota Ueda 85)
Ryoichi Maeda, Robert Cullen
Scorer: Cullen 5

Kiwi All Whites Join World Cup Party

The New Zealand football team will be joining Japan and Australia in South Africa next year. The emerged 1-0 winners over Bahrain before a partisan crowd of 35,000 in Wellington. That puts them several steps ahead of the likes of Scotland and Wales, who couldn't even make it to a play-off place.

Other Links:
stuff.nz.co: Video: All Whites highlights
NZ Herald: Soccer: All Whites victory reverberates around the globe
NY Times/Reuters: New Zealand Qualifes for 2010 World Cup

Monday, 9 November 2009

Cerezo and Vegalta to Join J1

A hat-trick from Inui helps Cerezo Osaka clinch promotion beck to J1 in style, with a comfortable 5-0 home win over Kusatsu. Vegalta Sendai will be joining them in the top tier, as they also romped home with a 4-0 thrashing of Mito Hollyhock. Cerezo are 10 points clear of third, with 101 points while Vegalta are two points back on 99,meaning that the J2 title itself is still up for grabs for one of these two teams. Vegalta's continued participation in the Emperor's Cup probably giving the Osaka lads the edge.

The third and final promotion place looks like going down to the wire, as Shonan Bellmare and Ventforet Kofu lie level on 91 points and are separated by a mere one goal on goal difference.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Vissel Shoot Selves in Foot

Much maligned Montenegro international Igor Burzanovic capitalizes on a Vissel mistake early in the game to give Nagoya a much needed home win. With Josh Kennedy out with a bad back, Magnum out for several weeks again, and Tamada playing through an injury, the battered and bruised home team was there for the taking. However, with Japan international Yoshito Okubo missing the game, the visitors lacked the inspiration or precision to take advantage.

The visitor's woes were in increased when Korean midfielder Kim Nam Il condemned compatriot Park Kang Jo to a cameo appearance of just nine minutes by getting himself sent off early in the second half. The lively Park had only just come on a substitute when his team was reduced to ten men, forcing manager Miura to promptly yank him off the pitch again. Even so, Kobe had several chances to get back on level terms, hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasions.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Keita Sugimoto 73), Alex Santos (Tomohiro Tsuda 59)
Keiji Tamada, Igor Burzanovic (Kei Yamaguchi 85)
Scorer: Burzanovic 15

Vissel Kobe
Tatsuya Enomoto
Yosuke Ishibitsu, Kunie Kitamoto, Teruaki Kobayashi, Ryosuke Matsuoka
Hiroki Kishida (Park Kang Jo 58 > Hideo Taaka 67), Kim Nam Il, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Hirouki Komoto 64), Botti
Takayuki Yoshida, Hiroto Mogi

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

VVV Shopping in Nagoya (Again?)

Numerous reports have been circulating about the player VVV Venlo hope to sign, presumably in place of Keisuke Honda, who is expected to move up to a bigger club in the January transfer window. In addition to Cerezo's Shinji Kagawa, who is expected to train with VVV in December, they have made a formal offer for Grampus defender Maya Yoshida, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Needless to say, Nagoya are not taking this lightly since Maya is one of our key players for the future. They will be negotiating a new contract with Yoshida over the next few days. See this Sponichi article (in Japanese) for more details.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Gamba to Sneak It?

Alan atjsoccer.com has his blue-tinted specs in full working order it seems. :-)

Tokyo and S-Pulse fans should forgive me for not considering them too much in this equation but I think it's down to Frontale, Antlers and Gamba to either win it or allow the others to take it. These three SHOULD take the ACL spots, though. But who will make it to the top on the final day? A first-time Champion in Kawasaki? Or a three-peat for Antlers? Or will Gamba pull back those four points and take it!!?

Let's take a look.....

This weekend sees the teams enter the fray with four games left and 12 points to play for. Kashima are home to Montedio who are now safe and will have little to motivate them now that the pressure is off. If Kashima don't win this one, they won't deserve the title! Frontale will finish off JEF, who are not quite mathematically down so just might give it all and surprise the top team! But it's doubtful! Gamba take on Kyoto and should take the points... if they don't the title will probably be out of reach, unless both Kashima and Kawasaki both lose today - an unlikely scenario!

Three games to go and Kawasaki have an away day at already relegated Oita. The pressure being off them Trinita MIGHT see them score a win and upset the apple cart! Kashima away at mid-table Ktoto, who have nothing to play for should see maximum points for Antlers, while Gamba are away at S-Pulse. Gamba need to win that to stave off S-Pulse, open up a gap and push for the final games. A defeat here for Gamba will see them finished in the hunt for the Championship, and have their ACL spot in danger, also.

The penultimate game MIGHT see a winner already, but, of course the powers-that-be in the J.League will be hoping for a last day finale. Kashima Antlers v. Gamba Osaka will kill off one or the other, or may kill off both if they draw and Frontake beat Albirex. But ALbirex will be still going for that 3rd ACL position and will pull out all the stops!

The final game sees Kashima Antlers away at Urawa Reds who will be playing for pride.... Kawasaki Frontale are away in Kashiwa, who will probably be relegated already and nothing to play for? Gamba entertain JEF, who will also be in J2 by then ? It looks as if Kashima have the toughest final hurdle.

It's going to go down to the wire??!! :-)

Let's play a little game here..... here's what it looks like going into the game this weekend, with four games to go...

Kawasaki Frontale 55 +22
Kashima Antlers 54 +13
Gamba Osaka 51 +15
Shimizu S-Pulse 50 +12
F.C.Tokyo 49 +9

... and here are the predictions.... Nov.8th

Kashima 3-0 Montedio
FC Tokyo 1-0 Reds
Frontake 4-0 JEF
Gamba 4-1 Kyoto
Kashiwa 0-3 S-Pulse

... then we'll have...

Kawasaki Frontale 58 +26
Kashima Antlers 57 +16
Gamba Osaka 54 +18
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +15
F.C.Tokyo 52 +10

... Nov.21st ...

S-Pulse 1-2 Gamba
Kyoto 1-2 Antlers
JEF 1-3 FC Tokyo
Oita 1-1 Frontale

... giving us...

Kashima Antlers 60 +17
Kawasaki Frontale 59 +26
Gamba Osaka 57 +19
F.C.Tokyo 55 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +14

... Nov.28th/29th

Antlers 1-2 Gamba
Frontale 1-2 Albirex
FC Tokyo 1-1 Vissel
Marinos 2-1 S-Pulse

... so, with one game to go it looks like this...

Gamba Osaka 60 +20
Kashima Antlers 60 +16
Kawasaki Frontale 59 +25
F.C.Tokyo 56 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +13

and, so, down to the last game of the season.....


Reds 4-1 Antlers
Reysol 0-4 Frontale
Niigata 2-2 FC Tokyo
Gamba 5-2 JEF
S-Pulse 0-2 Nagoya

.... so the final table looks like this - really - place your bets NOW!

Gamba Osaka 63 +23
Kawasaki Frontale 62 +29
Kashima Antlers 60 +13
F.C.Tokyo 57 +12
Shimizu S-Pulse 53 +11

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Grampus Ease into Emperor's Cup 4th Round

Nagoya keep their hopes of winning some silverware this season alive, with a hard-earned win over HOnda Lock in he Emperor's Cup.

Nagoya Grampus
Koji Nishimura
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Santos 58), Magnum
Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 75), Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki HT)
Scorers: Yoshimura 68, Maki 79

Honda Lock FC
Sawamura, Ueda, Shirakawa, Maeda
Kanaishi, Etsuda, Takei, Yamasshita (Harada 3)
Sudo (Kumamoto 66), Mizunaga

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Grampus Bow Out of ACL with 2-1 Loss

As expected, Nagoya duly bowed out of this year's ACL tourny. The four goal deficit from the first leg proving far too big a hurdle to overcome against an organized and effective opponent. Grampus had chances to score a couple of goals, with Josh seeing header crash against the bar after 30 minutes, and both the lanky Aussie and Brazilian Magnum should have converted good chances later in the game. However, the Saudi's always looked dangerous on the break and scored a decisive goal just before half time to kill off any chance of a miraculous comeback by Nagoya.

Over the two legs, Al Ittihad were the better prepared and able to play to their strengths, while Grampus ere hampered by the early dismissal of Takeuchi in the first game and the absence of experienced players. However, these factors only exaggerated the margin of victory, the Saudi's were much batter than last year's finalists Adelaide and worthy winners over the two legs. They should go onto win the tournament early next month.

Nagoya Grampus
Toru Hasegawa
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe,
Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 62), Alex Santos (Keiji Yoshimura 84), Igor Burzanovic, Magnum
Josh Kennedy, Yuki Maki (Naoshi Nakamura HT)
Scorers: Sugimoto 66

Al Ittihad
Alrahab, Alshamrani (Leguizamon HT), Alsaqri, Almontashari
Aboshgair, Aboucherouane (Alnumare 89), Almukhaini, Khariri
Hawsawi (Abdullah 89), Chermiti
Scorers: Alsaqri 43, Chermiti 59

Other Views
Gomiuri: No miracles for Grampus
JT: Al Ittihad finishes off Nagoya in ACL semis

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Bosko Gamble Pays Off as Grampus Fight Back to Share Points

Stand-in manager Bosko Djurovski gives up and coming young goalie Hasegawa his first league start. Although the young keeper had a rough first half, seeing the home team go 3-0 down by the 48th minute, his team-mates fought back to earn a 3-3 draw. Whatever Bosko said to the players at half time clearly worked, as they clawed back the three goals to avoid a demoralizing defeat.

Although Toru has been our fourth choice keeper for the first two years of his career, he has recently usurped Nishimura as the third choice. He may have had a rocky start, but he will have learned much and gained some valuable experience in a battling performance. Grampus were reduced to 10 men (again) shortly before the end, when Burzanovic picked up his second yellow of the game. The other gamble in this game was starting Yuki Maki as a centre back. Although, this gave us a very inexperienced player in that position, the lad has played their position at high school level. He made enough of an impression to give him another game or two to see if he can adapt to this position properly. If he can, and is happy to do so, it would give the team some much needed additional options in that area. At the moment, Maya Yoshida is the only experienced and able-bodied option we have. (Although Masukawa is expected to make his return form A-type influenza in the next game.)

As for the game itself, it was not quite as lopsided in the first half as the scoresheet suggests. Josh had the best chance early on, but saw his effort well parried by Hatta after racing clear through the middle. Magnum also had an effort saved after Maeda had spurned a chance to give the visitors the lead a few minutes earlier. The league's leading scorer made no such mistake a few moments later, stroking home a neat flick-on by Nishi, from a tight angle. The Jubilo ace then doubled the lead with a blast from 20-odd metres after Magnum had given possession away cheaply in midfield. Tamada had a chance to close the gap before the interval, but saw his shot from a tight angle blocked by the Jubilo custodian. And so the half ended, with Jubilo going in with a 2-0 advantage.

The visitors' extended their lead soon after the restart, with Maeda completing his hat-trick with simple header after poorly protected Hasegawa had made a fine stop. At this point it looked like the young debutant would be on the wrong side of another disheartening display. Fortunately, the introduction of Ogawa helped turn the tide, although the Grampus cause was helped when Oi deflected a dangerous Abe cross past his own kepper. Ogawa it was who provided the pin-point cross for Kennedy to power home our second and set the stage for an exciting close. Tamada converted a penalty to bring the teams level and Santos almost stole the victory, but saw his fierce drive smack the bar after an angled run through the middle as time ran down.

Nagoya Grampus
Toru Hasegawa
Hayuma Tanaka (Yoshizumi Ogawa 63), Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe, Alex Santos
Keiji Tamada, Keiji Yoshimura (Akira Takeuchi 70), Igor Burzanovic, Magnum (Keita Sugimoto 64)
Josh Kennedy, Yuki Maki
Scorers: OG 60, Kennedy 74, Tamada 79

Jubilo Iwata
Naoki Hatta
Yuichi Komano, Daisuke Nasu, Takayuki Chano, Yusuke Inuzuka (Kentaro Oi 57)
Sho Naruoka (Kota Ueda 84), Ryu Okada, Norihiro Nishi (Takuya Matsuura 66), Shinji MUrai
Ryoichi Maeda, Lee Keun Ho
Scorer: Maeda 31, 39, 48

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Gamba Send Peter to Sleep

Peter emerges from a Gamba induced slumber to give us his verdict on the recent game against the Marinos.

After Gamba’s many fine performances recently and the cracking thriller in the 2-2 draw away at Hiroshima the previous week, this game was a dud. However, since this Marinos game Gamba have redeemed themselves a bit with a 6-1 disposal of Fukuoka University in the Cup.

The game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima had been played at a blistering pace, especially in the first half, and I did make a reference in my match report that possibly in the 2nd half Sanfrecce’s Mihael Mikic had felt that pace. Bearing in mind that Sanfrecce went down 0-7 to Kawasaki Frontale in the same round of matches as this game, then it at least has to be considered that the almost frantic Sanfrecce-Gamba clash took its toll on the energy of both teams. In the absence of any other good reason for Gamba’s lack of energy in this match, I am going to put it down to their splendid 2nd-half fightback the previous week having taken more out of the team than we realised. Whatever, there was certainly nothing splendid about this performance against the Marinos.
The game was characterised by a lot of long balls and, especially for the Marinos, a fair number of long shots. There were, however, a few incidents in the 1st-half.

In the 2nd minute, Pedro Junior did well to make just enough room for himself on the edge of the penalty area to get away a clear shot, but he could only blaze it way over the bar.

In the 5th minute Fujigaya only just managed to pip a couple of Marinos players to a through ball.

In the 17th minute, Gamba scored but the game had been blown up for an offside earlier in the play. (A very close, but probably correct decision.)

In the 20th minute, after Pedro Junior had, with a bit of a lucky rebound, managed to get past the Marinos’ goalie, with the goal gaping he hit the side netting from a very narrow angle.
In the 35th minute, from a free-kick just outside the Marinos’ penalty area, Endo hit the wall.

The game was pretty uniform in both halves--again in stark contrast to the exciting 2nd-half performances of Gamba in their previous two games. At half-time most Gamba fans were pretty relaxed about the 2nd-half despite the dreary 1st-half, but this proved to be a false confidence. The 2nd-half was no improvement on the 1st--this despite Endo playing higher up the pitch.

In the 57th minute, Myojin made a good interception midway in his own half, and followed it up with a beautiful long through ball down the left channel to Lucas, who dummied his man on the corner of the penalty box and tried a goodish curling shot that was just wide of the far post.
In the 64th minute, Fujigaya had to come out of the penalty box to boot the ball into the stands as the Marinos threatened a one on one.
In the 69th minute, Daisuke Sakata, after good link play by he Marinos turned well and got away a sharp shot just wide of Fujigaya’s left post.
Match stats: Shots Gamba 8, Marinos 10 (but several quite long); GKs Gamba 10, Marinos 11; Corners Gamba 3, Marinos 6; Free-kicks Gamba 18, Marinos 28; Possession Gamba 49%, Marinos 51%.

These statistics confirm the impression of the spectator that this was a very even and uneventful game. Were there any positives? Well, both goalies played sound games (with accurate kicking), although neither was called into spectacular action. And, I suppose, as the Marinos were the away team and the match seemed a must-winner for Gamba, the game has to be considered a tactical success for departing Marinos manager Kokichi Kimura.

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Friday, 23 October 2009

J1: Sanfrecce 2-2 Gamba (Peter's View)

Forecast to be a cracking game, this match sure was, featuring four good goals. Sanfrecce put on an impressive attacking performance in the first half to lead 2-0 at half-time, but Gamba matched that performance in a second half which saw them fight back to equalize. As in Gamba’s previous match, this was very much a match of two halves, with Gamba dominating the second.

One wonders how much the absentees influenced the game: the two major doubts, the ill veteran CD Ilian Stoyanov for Sanfrecce and the hurting creative midfielder Futagawa for Gamba, both failed to make it in time for this game. Would Sanfrecce’s defence have stood up better in the second half if Stoyanov had been well, fit and present?

Would Sanfrecce have been able to seize the initiative in the first half if Futagawa had been there? (In the previous game, the inconsistent Futagawa had been in brilliant creative form.) Moreover, was Futagawa’s absence one reason why Gamba manager Akira Nishino dropped left-back Shimohira in favour of Takagi? Otherwise, it seemed a strange decision to change a winning team. Sasaki, who replaced Futagawa, did not have a bad game and scored once, but, although he got into good positions and scored one goal, also a missed a couple of good chances, including one in the 13th minute with the score still 0-0.

Takagi had a torrid time in the first half as Sanfrecce made hay down both wings, with Yojiro Takahagi and Hisato Sato alternately looking penetrative on their left, and Mihael Mikic creating mayhem on their right. For Gamba, central defenders Yamaguchi and Nakazawa, were in superb form and managed to hold the fort for most of the first half. Goalie Fujigaya also performed well.

Sanfrecce were getting their midfielders up well in support of the attack and even the defenders were looking for chances. After about 30 minutes, after good work on the left, the unmarked Mikic in the centre, with Fujigaya out of position, shot wide from about 15 metres when he should have done better. In the 33rd minute Sanfrecce defender Tomoaki Makino got in a powerful low free-kick that hit the outside of the post; but in the 41st minute midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama was on hand at last to convert Mikic’s heroics on the right into a concrete result by arriving unmarked deep on the left to get in a superb looping header from about nine metres over Fujigaya and just inside the far post. In lost time of the first half, Makino finally got his reward after the ball was played back to him unmarked on the left side by Takahagi, and from the corner of the penalty box he got in a fine shot that sailed over Fujigaya and into the far corner of the net.

At half-time both of Sanfrecce’s wide men had deserved assists. 2-0.

In the second half Nishino pushed his midfielders further forward and succeeded in cutting off the supply of passes to Mikic, who may well have been feeling the pace after his rampant first half. Whatever, the Mikic danger was virtually eliminated. Kaji played closer to Takahagi and closed down the threat on the opposite side.

Now it became a story of Gamba domination. In the 58th minute, Lucas headed well over when he should have made the efficient goalie Hirotsugu Nakabayashi work. In a game against a team of Sanfrecce’s class, Pedro Junior’s inexperience began to show in attack, and after an hour Nishino replaced him with Bando. From that moment on it only looked a matter of time until Gamba would score.

Immediately, Sasaki, completely unmarked, headed against the post from an accurate Endo free-kick--again, he should have done better--with the rebound bouncing straight into Nakabayashi’s arms. In the 61st minute Nakabayashi just beat Hashimoto to a through pass; but Hashimoto was not to be denied and, following a good block by Nakabayashi from a shot by Bando, Lucas fed Hashimoto ten metres out and, with the goalie out of position, he made no mistake.

In the 70th minute Endo won possession on the left edge of the Sanfrecce penalty area and, with a delightful precision chip, found Sasaki in front of the far post. The Sanfrecce defender had gone for the header and missed, Sasaki chested the ball down and then, unchallenged, beat the goalie comprehensively from seven metres.

A tale of two halves; but when on the defensive both teams created chances on the break. A thrilling, quality top of the table clash.

J1: Sanfrecce vs Gamba (The Kobe Samurai VIew)

Alan, over at jsoccer, gives us his take of Gamba's game against Hiroshima.

Gamba went into this game hoping for a win and a continued march to the Championship and, as the teams around them show inconsistency, the day could well have ended with Gamba on top - where they belong! But, it was not to be. Despite Kashima dropping more points and Shimizu being taken out by bottom-placed Trinita, this one ended in a draw that kept Sanfrecce's slim hopes of coming top alive, while frustrating Gamba's hopes for hitting the top spot in the home stretch.

Gamba began with Takagi replacing Shimohira in the back line, suggesting a back three, but it appeared more of the normal 4-4-2 after all. Sasaki took the place of the injured Futagawa and showed why he is an able deputy with plenty of useful passes, as well as the final goal of the game to bring home a point. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The records show Gamba had over 20 goal attempts, as Nishino played the usual attacking free-flowing passing football, but there was noticeable extra pressure higher up the field today, to try to close down Sanfrecce's own brand of quick break and rotating positions style. This extra pressure and defending in attack actually produced both goals in the end, also.

After going 2-0 down in the few minutes before half-time through goals from Aoyama - a looping header back across the goal and over Fujigaya - and Makino - a well-placed curving shot from the corner of the area into the top corner, Gamba came out looking for parity, or better, and could - or should - have had all the points by the end of the game.

While Gamba had made all the running in the opening 15 minutes of the 2nd half, they had nothing to show it and, on 60 minutes Bando replaced Pedro Junior and the difference was immediate! A minute later, and Endo free kick was headed against the post by Sasaki, Bando had Nakabayashi in the Hiroshima goal stretching, and Lucas latched onto the rebound, set up Hashimoto, and the Japan midfielder blasted home... 1-2 and all to play for.

Sanfrecce defended desperately and whenever they managed to intercept a ball, a Gamba player was onto the defender within seconds to win the ball back, or block the clearance, and this work ethic paid off big time in the 70th minute as Endo regained the ball out on the left, looked up, feinted one way and the other and then chipped an inch-perfect cross to Sasaki, ghosting in behind the defenders on the right of the area. He chested the ball down, touched it aside to steady himself and shot it back across the keeper as a desperate defensive lunge came in, and into the net for the equaliser. 2-2.

Gamba went all out for the winner and were covering every blade of grass in the final minutes as Bando broke free in the 83rd minute but the ball was stripped by the keeper as Bando rounded him for the kill. And still Gamba had chances to take the game with Endo (twice), Lucas and Yamazaki all getting in shots in the final minutes as Hiroshima circled the wagons. But, to repeat a phrase from the beginning of this report, it was not to be, and Gamba were frustrated in the end.

Gamba Osaka: Fujigaya, Kaji, Nakazawa, Yamaguchi, Takagi (Shimohira, 84), Myojin, Hashimoto, Endo, Sasaki (Yamazaki, 73), Lucas, Pedro Junior (Bando, 60)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

10-Man Grampus Punished in Closing MInutes

Nagoya face an uphill task to make it to the ACL final after falling to a 6-2 defeat in Saudi Arabia. The home team were greatly helped by the fact that Grampus were reduced to ten men after only eight minutes. The UAE referee sending Takeuchi for an early shower after a clumsy challenge near the edge of the box. (There was no malicious intent, but Takeuchi did get his feet entangled with the attacker as he surged through on goal. Certainly likely to draw a yellow, and a referee intent on sticking to the letter of the law was likely to produce a red.) The three goals scored in the closing 10 minutes should see the Saudi's pack their defence at Mizuho next week, and their fast counter attacks make it unlikely that we will keep them off the scoreboard.

Although the ten men held out well for 80 minutes, the sight of manager Stojkovic contemptuously siting cross-legged at the side of the pitch will not have inspired them to greater effort.

As for the game itself, Nagoya got off to the batter start with an Igor Burzanovic header being parried by keeper Zaid early on. Then came the turning point as Takeuchi was sent off after only eight minutes. Although this did not alter the course of the first half, the toll eventually showed in the final minutes as Grampus legs began to tire. Indeed, Josh powered home pin-point a Hayuma cross shortly after Takeuchi's dismissal to give the visitors the lead.

Nagoya continued to look comfortably in control for much of the remainder of the half, but with Al Ittihad looking dangerous on the counterattack. The home team equalised with a good finish after a poor clearance. The Grampus lead was restored when Naoshi turned on a sixpence to fire in a second after 34 mins. The half ended with Nagoya still holding their one goal advantage.

The second half saw manager Stojkovic replace the stylish, but not defensively minded Burzanovic with young defender Masaya Sato. Although the youngster did his best, he is not a natural central defender and his lack of experience allowed the nippy Saudi players more space than they should have been allowed. This combined with the one man advantage, and makeshift nature of our defence, saw the home team gradually exert more and more pressure on the Grampus goal. The dam eventually giving way after 83 minutes, when a dubious penalty gave the home team the lead. Did Hirono bring the forward down? No, but he did not win the ball and was sprawled inviting in front of the player, who made no mistake in promptly colliding with the outstretched body. The home team then surged past their tired and dispirited opponents to seize a four goal advantage.

Al Ittihad
Alrahab, Alshamrani (Leguizamon HT), Alsaqri, Almontashari
Aboshgair, Aboucherouane (Alnumare 89), Almukhaini, Khariri
Hawsawi (Abdullah 89), Chermiti
Scorers: Almukhaini 25, Hawsawi 65, 75, 90+3, Leguizamon 83 (PK), Chermiti 90

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Akira Takeuchi, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Santos 66), Magnum
Igor Burzanovic (Masaya Sato HT) Josh Kennedy (Keiji Tamada 78)
Scorers: Kennedy 14, Nakamura 34

Monday, 19 October 2009

J2 on the Rise (Cerezo 3-1 Ehime)

Went off to see Cerezo secure an ever firmer grip on promotion back to J1 against Ehime yesterday. Ehime made a much better impression than expected, and proved just how much the level in J2 is improving. Not only is the standard of football in J2 rising, so are the crowds. This game saw over 9,000 in attendance, including a couple of Aussie's attending their first ever professional football game. They seemed pleasantly surprised by turnout.

As for the game itself, Cerezo fielded a comparatively weak team, but it was still good enough to control much of the game. However, the absence of Kagawa and others meant that all too frequently there promising moves broke down in the last third of the pitch. But, their slick passing moves along with Ehime's more direct approach made for an entertaining game. The visitors looked far from overawed, giving a good account of themselves and looking far from a team languishing in 15th place. Although Cerezo were worthy winners, the 3-1 margin flatters them somewhat and is largely thanks to a generous lineman who failed to call the clearly offside Kagawa as he burst through from midfield.

Cerezo Osaka
Kim Jin Hyeon
Kenji Haneda, Kota Fujimoto, Kazuya Maeda, Noriyuki Sakemoto
Yuji Funayama, Hotaru Yamaguchi (Thiago 56), Naoya Ishigami,
Kento Shiratani (Shinji Kagawa 56), Takuya Kokeguchi
Scorers: Funayama 20, Fujimoto 40, Kagawa 86 (with a little help from the linesman)

Ehime FC
Hiromasa Yamamoto
Eigo Sekine, Yuichi Shibakoya, Alair (THiago 69), Kohei Matsushita
Shuta Nagai, Kazuhito Watanabe, Shuichi Akai, Shigeru Yokotani (Kenta Uchida 88)
Yoshihiro Uchimura (Shunsuke Oyama 82), Dodo
Scorer: Dodo 37

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Struggling Grampus Stung in Final Seconds

A solid performance by a makeshift squad looked set to earn the visitor's a well-deserved share of the points, but was undone by an extra-time goal from Kano.

With several players missing through injury, suspension, or simply being rested ahead of Wednesday's ACL game in Saudi Arabia, there was a distinctly unfamiliar feel to the Grampus starting lineup for this game in Yokohama. This also extended to the bench, of course, where youngsters Sato, Hashimoto and Fukushima were all present.

The team made a good start, with Maya calmly chipping Enomoto after being put through by a good ball from Shohei Abe, after five minutes. Grampus continued to look the better team for much of the first half, but lost impetus after the influential Burzanovic had been stunned after a clash of heads in the penalty area. Although he continued to play for the remainder of the half, he became almost invisible. With Keita Sugimoto proving equally invisible on the right, the Marinos were able to gradually assume control. Sure enough, Tasaka leveled the scores with a well placed header after a well-timed run into space created by rookie striker Watanabe.

The second half saw Grampus regain some of its lost impetus with the addition of Ogawa at half time, and with the introduction of Kennedy midway through the half. However, they were unable fashion the clearcut chances needed to punish some indifferent play by the Marinos. The Aussie saw a couple of good efforts flash the wrong side of a post, but failed to add to his goal tally. They eventually paid for this failure, when Kano pounced on a loose ball to blast home the winner.

The game was also notable for seeing Pxie sent to the stands after a typically skillful kick not only sent the ball back onto the field, but also into the Marinos net. The officious prat in black (Itaru Hirose) feeling compelled to turn this light-hearted moment into a dismissal.

Yokohama Marinos
Tetsuya Enomoto
Takashi Amano (Masakazu Tashiro 74), Yuzo Kurihara, Yuji Nakazawa, Yusuke Tanaka
Naoki Matsuda, Ryuji Kawai, Ariajasuru Hasegawa (Norihisa Shimizu 82), Kenta Kano
Kazuma Watanabe (Kim Kun Hoan 71), Daisuke Watanabe
Scorers: Tasaka 30, Kano 90+2

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Akira Takeuchi, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Tomohiro Tsuda 72), Keiji Yoshimura, Alex Santos, Magnum (Kennedy 63)
Igor Burzanovic (Yoshizumi Ogawa HT), Yuki Maki
Scorer: Yoshida 5

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Okazaki Bags 2nd Hat-trick in Romp Over Togo

Shinji Okazaki nets his second national team hat-trick in a week as Japan waltz past a hopelessly outclassed opponent. Quite what the JFA hoped to achieve by this series of three games against such weak opposition is hard to tell, but at least the team has had plenty of target practice.  Just to remind you, these games (supposedly to 'strengthen' the team) ended: Japan 6-0 Hong Kong, Japan 2-0 Scotland and Japan 5-0 Togo. Indeed, such was the predictability of these games that the Asahi Shimbun did not bother to cover the Togo game.

Takayuki Morimoto put in another impressive display, scoring a good goal on the turn after 11 minutes. This was Japan's third of night and the team understandably lost its edge and did not reallt regain it until the second half when substitutes Keisuke Honda and Yoshito Okubo added some life to the game.

Other Views:
Gomiuri: Dazzling duo: Morimoto nets 1st goal for Japan, Okazaki bags second straight hat-trick in rout of Togo
Japan Times: Okazaki, Japan overwhelm Togo

Josh & Co. Squeak Past Oman

A lat Tim Cahill goal, after Josh Kennedy dragged Omani defenders out os position, gives the Aussies their first win of the Asian Cup qualifying campaign. THey now share top spot, after three games.

Other Views:
The Australian: Tim Cahill saves Aussie blushes against Oman

Monday, 12 October 2009

NT: Japan 2-0 Scotland

A fairly poor performance by Japan's second-stringers was still good enough to (eventually) emerge victorious from their friendly against Scotland. However, it seems to have been good enough to impress the Beeb.

The match will not have taught manager Okada much, except that few of the starting members need serious consideration for a starting position in a serious game. Kesiuke Honda had another indifferent performance for the national team, despite his late goal. He was far too slow in getting Japan moving forward, and far too willing to settle for a backwards pass. Only Frontale 'keeper Kawasahima (already established as Japan's number two) and debutant Morimoto can feel satisfied with their night's work. It was not until Morimoto was introduced that Japan looked like turning their possession into serious threats.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Grampus Advance in Emperor's Cup

Nagoya downs Okinawa Kariyushi FC 4-0 to advance to the third round of this year's Emperor's Cup. They meet Honda Lock SC, conquerers of Tokyo Verdy, on November 1st.

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Akira Takeuchi, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Tomohiro Tsuda (Magnum 57), Keiji Yoshimura, Alex Santos (Yoshizumi Ogawa 64), Taishi Taguchi (Keita Sugimoto HT)
Igor Burzanovic, Yuki Maki
Scorers: Santos 43 (PK), Burzanovic 69, 79, Maki 86

Okinawa Kariyushi FC
Nobuyuki Takahashi
Ryo Nurishi, Shin Iijima, Shogo Horiuchi (Kenichi Hori 84), Yuki Sugimoto
Kazuki Kodera, Shinpei Watanabe, Takamichi Seki
Shinpeo Sakurada (Shin Toyama 84), Tetsuya Kijima, Daiki Asano (Koji Takahata 85)

Thoughts on Yomiuri and Mikitani

A former Vissel fan muses on what might be behind Rakuten's apparent lack of focus on its sports teams.

It has always struck me that there was a a potential conflict of interest between the Yomiuri media group and the group's ownership of Kawasaki/Tokyo Verdy football club.  I now doubt the sincerity of Mikitani's commitment to make Vissel successful.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the Yomiuri media group and the Yomiuri Giants baseball club.  The Yomiuri media group works as a medium of propagandistic hype for the Giants, and the success of the Giants increases sales of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Sports Houchi and other companies in the Yomiuri media group.

So long as football was a minor sport, Yomiuri was happy to sponsor a football team, as it did in the amateur days and as it sponsors teams in many other sports.  However, once pro football started to pose a major challenge to Nippon Pro Baseball, the Yomiuri group was certain to be in a position where it wanted football to lose to baseball.  Any declining popularity of pro baseball would have an immediate negative effect on the sales of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Sports Houchi, etc.

It is, therefore, easily understandable that the Yomiuri group has been unwilling to invest large sums in Tokyo Verdy to try and make it hugely successful.  Such success would undermine the basis for Yomiuri's dominant position in the Japanese newspaper world.  I spent four years in Nagoya from 1973-77.  Even at that time the rivalry between the Yomiuri Shimbun group and the Chuunichi Shimbun group, which owns the Chuunichi Dragons pro baseball club, was intense.  It was known that a successful Giants team boosted sales of the Yomiuri and Houchi in the Chuubu area, while, when the Dragons were successful, the sales of the Yomiuri group declined and those of the Chuunichi group blossomed.

It is a cutthroat world out there in the baseball Central League.  And Japanese pro baseball is virtually run by the Yomiuri Giants.

What has that got to do with Mikitani?  Well, Mikitani, as the founder and owner of Rakuten, is widely known as one of the wealthiest of the nouveau riche in Japan.  He was born in Kobe and he started to sponsor the Vissel Kobe pro football club.  As soon as this happened, the NPB started to bring pressure on Mikitani to save the twelve-club system of the NPB (the Kintetsu Buffaloes were in the process of going bust) and you can be sure that enormous rewards and threats were made to him by the baseball establishment in general and the Yomiuri Group in particular to invest in the proposed new Touhoku club.  After prolonged pressure he agreed to do so.

This, of course, has disturbed Mikitani's concentration on Vissel and the J-League, which was what the NPB and Yomiuri intended.

Orix were also involved in bailing out Kintetsu and in the compromise that followed, the Buffaloes were merged with the Orix BlueWave.  Orix were allowed to  protect (I think) eighteen of the former Buffaloes players. [Kintetsu and Orix were allowed to protect a total of 28 players from the two clubs.] The best having been creamed off, the reserves then formed the nucleus of the new Touhoku team, to be called the Golden Eagles, to be based in Sendai.  The numbers for the Touhoku team were then supplemented by a draft of pro players by the Eagles from the other eleven clubs.  Again, each club could protect (I think) eighteen players, and the Eagles could pick up what scraps they could. [For details about the 'Allocation Draft' in Japanese, see this Wikipedia article.]

Naturally, the Eagles were very weak.  Their first manager was a man called Tao.  After the first year, he was sacked and a crusty old genius, Nomura, was appointed.  Here are the Eagles' yearly records in the six-team Pacific League:
2005:  136g:  w38, l97, d1; 6th (Tao)
2006:  136         47      85     4; 6th (Nomura)
2007:  144        67   75     2; 4th (  "       )
2008:  144        65   76     3; 5th (  "       )
2009:  143        77   65     1; 2nd (  "       )

We are right now (the Eagles' last game of the regular season is today) at the very important point when the clubs are about to begin preparing for the play-offs.
You can see that Nomura has been almost miraculously successful.  Taking a team of has-beens and discards, supplemented by the yearly draft intake, transfers, etc., he has turned them into a team that has finished 2nd and is in a position where it is possible to win the Pacific League play-offs and participate in the Japan Series.

At this very point, it has become clear that Nomura will be sacked at the end of this season.  Last week's edition of the photo scandal magazine Friday reported that owner Mikitani had had a 4-hour discussion with Hoshino Senior Director of the Hanshin Tigers.  It is widely speculated that Mikitani asked Hoshino to be the next manager and Hoshino turned him down.  Actually, nobody knows what they talked about, but it's a fact that they had a four-hour discussion.  The Eagles' CEO has said that they did not discuss baseball, which has been met by the equivalent of raucous laughter in the Japanese sports press.  Nomura has responded by saying that while he loves the Eagles team, he hates the Rakuten club.  Bridges have been burned.

Now:  what is going on here?  What is Mikitani's agenda?  Why is he replacing Nomura after this successful year?  Especially, why has he allowed the speculation to become public at this important time immediately before the play-offs?

When you think of Vissel's managerial cock-ups, it makes you doubt whether Adachi was solely responsible for what has happened, and casts doubt on Mikitani's ability to run pro sports clubs, and even on his integrity.

Is it possible that Nomura is being sacked because he insists on continuing to make the Eagles more successful?  If so, could it be that Matsuda was sacked at Vissel because he was determined to continue making them more successful?  Doubts abound.  At best, Mikitani looks out of his depth in the goldfish-bowl world of pro baseball.

Yomiuri lacks commitment to make Verdy successful.  It is doing the right thing by getting out of pro football.  It's time Mikitani sorted himself out and decides what he wants to do.  I'm sure the Eagles fans don't want a team that is going to be kept permanently in the shadow of the Giants.  If Mikitani can't afford to commit himself to making the Eagles and Vissel both highly successful, he should make a choice and commit himself to one or the other.  We Vissel fans don't want an owner who just wants to keep the club ticking over so he can get kudos for his community spirit.  Sort yourself, and get your finger out, Mikitani!

Socceroos Hold Dutch to Scoreless Draw

Although they seem to have put in a very defensive performance, the Aussie's successfully kept the Dutch at bay for 90 minutes. Nagoya's Josh Kennedy playing only for the opening half. Next up for the Roos are Oman in an Asian Cup qualifier.

Goal.com: Aussie Analysis: Australia's Dutch Performance Was A Taste Of The World Cup

Monday, 5 October 2009

Fraternizing with the Enemy :-)

Red out with a bunch of other footy freaks and bloggers near Kobe Wing (Oops, Home's) Stadium. Not the sort of picture you are likely to find in some other countries, unless you are feeling suicidal. :-)

The other bloggers in this photo are Stefanole, Goru Noura and Kobe Samurai.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

J1: Vissel 1-1 Sanga

Peter's take on the match at Home's Stadium as Vissel and Sanga 'battled' to a 1-1 draw.

Went to watch Vissel v. Sanga at Wada Misaki with Mark yesterday.

Very much a game involving two teams on the edge of the relegation zone. I said to Mark at the end of the game, "Kobe looked as though they had some players with technical skills, but no ideas; Kyoto looked as though they had some good ideas, but no players with technical skills."
I also phrased it, "Vissel looked as though they had some good players but a poor manager; Sanga looked as though they had a good manager but poor players."

After the game, we met up with some acquaintances for drinks. The first thing one of these, a Sanga fan, said was, "If we had had one good player, we would have won!"

He and I were on the same wavelength. That was the kind of game it was: if Kyoto had had one good player, they would have won; if Kobe had had one good idea, they would have won.

Apart from the goals, Vissel had only two really good missed chances in the game, both headers from volante (so called) Miyamoto--one went narrowly wide, the other brought a very good save from the Kyoto goalie. I lie: Botti missed a sitter straight after half-time; a cross from the right found him coming in unmarked just wide of the post on the left, and it looked like a simple header--the ball was slightly behind him, so he went for a spectacular kick instead, sending the ball way over the bar. However, I felt it should not have been beyond the wit of man to have contrived a header, which would surely have resulted in a goal.

The goals? Oh, yes, there were two goals--I almost forgot. After a mind-boggling eff-up by the Vissel defence, when no danger was pending, for which Komoto was mainly responsible (boo-hoo), Uchiyama conceded a stone-cold penalty. The question was, how was it the ref never gave Uchiyama a red card? Maybe he play-acted his fall just well enough. Anyway, the penalty was converted. Vissel's goal also came from a set piece. A free-kick out on the right by Botti was allowed by the Sanga defence to fall to Kitamoto about five yards out more or less in front of the near post, and he volleyed it low into the far corner--a well-taken goal. But, again, by a defender.

Going forward, Vissel's forwards were absolutely clueless. Every time they looked they might turn the Sanga defence, they started going sideways or backwards.

To some up: if Vissel's attackers had had one good idea, they would have won. But they didn't!