Thursday, 28 May 2009

Honda Fires Japan to Easy Win Over Mild Chile

A year playing football in a less demanding, but physical, league seems to have done Keisuke Honda the world of good. He was instrumental in Japan's comfortable 4-0 win over an under-strength Chile in a last night's friendly at Nagai Stadium. His fierce shot led to the first goal, as Okazaki pounced on the 'keeper's fumbled save to fire Japan into an early lead.

Okazaki added a second before half time, when defender Nakazawa played him through with an inch-perfect pass, as he burst between two defenders to fire past the hapless Chile custodian. Yuki Abe snuffed out any South American hopes of a revival in the second half, as he powered home a typically powerful header from a corner. Honda then rounded off his evening's work, with a neat finish in extra time, to open his account for Japan. Although he started to tire late in the half, he was still able bury Naoki Yamada's lay-off with an instant curling shot into the far corner.

Other Views

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Jubilo Shunt Grampus Off Unbeaten Run

In a surprise move, Grampus started this game with both forward Maki and defender Takeuchi in from the start. They replaced Tamada and Tanaka respectively, despite playing in the midweek game against Beijing. We suspect, that keeping Tamada on the bench was a motivation issue, considering that it would be likely make him even more determined to make a impression when he did come on. Unfortunately, the loss of Ogawa near the end proved more decisive, as Iwata run out 2-1 winners in an absorbing contest of contrasting styles.

The first half saw Jubilo make the better start, with a couple of early chances going astray. Both Nishi and Gilsinho looking sharp and working hard to put pressure on Nagoya. In contrast to Iwata's testing, probing build-up, Nagoya' play was more ponderous and relied on longer balls from the side. These saw a Maya header from a free-kick sail just over the bar, and the hard-working Maki also send a glancing header from a corner over bar. Abe put over several useful crosses, that posed a serious threat to Jubilo defense. A downward Lee header proved too firm and bounced over the bar. Jubilo testing, probing attacks. Maeda free header, from corner, goes wide. Nishi header, from Yamamoto cross whipped in from the right, hit under-side of cross bar, but rebounded to safety. This proved to be Yamamoto's last contribution to events, as he was injured by Ogawa's challenge as he whipped the ball over. Deflected Naoshi shot forced Kawaguchi to tip over.

HT: 0-0

Jubilo started the second half as they had the first, with a Ueda volley from a Gilsinho cross going just wide. Tamada replaced the ineffective Nakamura 10 minutes into the half, and as expected dropped into a position just behind Maki and Davi. A rare accurate Takeuchi cross just eluded Davi. This was shortly followed by another Maki header from a good Abe cross that again drifted just wide of Kawaguchi's far post. Lee broke forward after dispossessing Maya near the halfway line, but was unable to get off a clear shot. He later tested Narazaki with a rising shot from a tight angle that forced the Nara native to tip the ball over.

Ogawa was dismissed 10 minutes from the end, after hauling down a Jubilo player to earn his second yellow card of the day. Jubilo promptly took the lead when Nasu neatly put way the rebound after a header had come back off the bar. A Naruoka 20-yarder then doubled Jubilo lead five minutes from the end. Davi pulled a goal back, with a glancing header from a Tamada free kick, as Jubilo paid the penalty for making a substitution before the kick. Tamada then saw a good effort saved as Nagoya pressed for the equalizer. Tamada and Davi combined well again on a free kick, this time Kawaguchi making a fingertip save to deny the Brazilian. Jubilo almost extended their lead early in injury-time when a quick break forced Narazaki into a good save. So, despite Grampus having the majority of the possession, it was Jubilo that made effective use of it, when they had the ball.

The loss sees Grampus Grampus fall back to seventh place, 10 points behind leaders Kashima, and they will resume league play, after the national team break, without Ogawa. The two yellow cards mean he will earn an automatic suspension for the next game against JEF United. On the other hand, Magnum is expected to rejoin the team in June, and may well be back in time for the resumption. The question is, can any of the youngsters (Fukushima and Hanai in particular) capitalize on a serious of mediocre performances by the midfield, to force their way into the team.

Jubilo Iwata
Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi
Yuichi Komano, Daisuke Nasu, Kentaro Ooi, Shuto Yamamoto
Kosuke Yamamoto (Sho Naruoka 35), Kota Ueda, Norihiro Nishi (Yoshiaki Ota 66), Gilsinho,
Lee Keun Ho (Rodrigo), Ryoichi Maeda
Scorers: Nasu 83, Naruoka 85

Seigo Narazaki
Akira Takeuchi (Hayuma Tanaka 66), Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe (Keita Sugimoto 85)
Naoshi Nakamura (Keiji Tamada 55), Kei Yamaguchi, Keiji Yoshimura, Yoshizumi Ogawa
Yuki Maki, Davi
Scorer: Davi 88

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ogawa Selected for Best 11 of ACL Group Stage Asia has selected three players from Japanese clubs for their best eleven of the just completed group stage. This, of course, includes Yoshizumi Ogawa, but also Ogasawara of the Antlers and Leandro from Gamba.

Click here for the full eleven.

Vissel's Kim Out for Two Months

Vissel Kobe have announced that midfielder Kim Nan Il will be out for action for about two months, after pulling a muscle during the warm-up for the game against Niigata on Sunday. The calf injury (?) does not sound too serious, so it is a bit surprising to see that it is expected to keep Kim out of action for two months.

Guoan Cloggers Snatch a Point

Nagoya's fresh-faced youngsters earned a point in Beijing to finish their ACL group stage unbeaten in six games. Although none of the youngsters had a particularly spectacular game, they all contributed to a solid team performance. They also seem to have survived unscathed from some typically amateurish 'tackling' that has no place in a professional competition.

Grampus got off to the better start, with Tsuda sending a dipping shot just over the bar. However, despite some very crude play by their defense, Guoan posed the occasional threat when going forward and Liang saw a good effort jut clear the bar. This was followed by a golden chance from tight angle, but Hui clipped the outside of post with the goal at his mercy. Meanwhile, the Chinese Cloggers had two players booked for dangerous two-footed challenges within the opening 30 minutes, and a third player booked for a crude push.

Nagoya took the lead when Yamaguchi won free-kick on the edge of box, after a neat bit of control outfoxed his marker. Hanai saw his curling effort from the resultant free-kick smack the bar, but Niikawa was on hand to react smartly and bury the rebound into the net.

The second half saw Grampus look a bit more comfortable and composed, but Guoan were occasionally dangerous down the wings. In particular, the pace of the two Griffiths brothers often created danger, but they lacked the finesse to make the most of the opportunities. Beijing did eventually pull level after period of pressure, towards the end of the half, with some good control and a well-taken shot by Hui. The thugish Zheng sees himself dismissed after a another two-footed challenge earlier in the half is followed by blatant arm block on Sugimoto, neither of which made any attempt to play the ball. No wonder the Chinese league cannot attract decent players, no true professional would risk playing there, leaving them with simple mercenaries who do not care as long as the money is good.

FootyTube has highlights of the first half.

Beijing Guoan Vs. Nagoya Grampus at

Guoan Cloggers
Zhang Si Peng
Lang Zheng, Zhou Ting, Xu Yun Long (Modibo 62)
Sui Dong Liang, Wang Dong (Zhang Xinxin 34), Wang Ke (Ryan Griffiths 75), Zhu Yifan
Du Wen Hui, Guo Hui, Joel Griffiths
Scorer: Guo Hui 81

Koji Nihimura
Genta Matsuo, Akira Takeuchi, Maya Yoshida, Masaya Sato
Kei Yamaguchi, Shinta Fukushima, Sho Hanai
Yuki Maki, Tomohiro Tusda, Oribe Niikawa
Scorer: Niikawa 35

Other Views
ESPN Star: Beijing Guoan 1-1 Nagoya Grampus
Kyodo News: Nagoya, Beijing end 1-1 tie in ACL

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Start-em Young

The Grampus starting line-up for tonight's ACL game in Beijing contains Matsuo and Sato in defence, Fukushima and Hanai in midfield, and Niikawa up front. With 20-year-old Yoshida also in the line-up, this make one of the youngest teams Grampus have ever fielded. Most of our other rookies have 'made' the bench. :-)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Gamba's Leandro Out for Six Weeks

Gamba Osaka have announced that forward, Leandro, who strained a muscle when he clumsily trod on the ball during the game against Urawa on Saturday, is expected to be out of action for six weeks. (Not quite as disastrous as it sounds, after this weekend's game there is one-month break in the league schedule.) That will teach Nishino to force him to play tired players, despite Gamba's hectic schedule.

Magnum Flies Back to Brazil for Treatment

Brazilian midfielder Magnum has returned to his native country, where he will undergo treatment, for a few weeks, and will rejoin the club in June.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Omiya Grab Point at Toyota

As expected, the less than fully-fit Tamada was rested for this game. Unfortunately, the team is not in a position to also rest Davi, who bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure Grampus a point, but looks as though he could do with a game or two off himself.

As was the case last weekend, this was a game that Nagoya should really have lost. Omiya had much the better of the chances, and should have added to the one goal that scored in the first half. However, sloppy finishing and more heroics from Narazaki between the sticks meant that Grampus stayed alive and were able to earn a share of the points. A result that sees them slip down the table, but remain unbeaten for nine games. The players will get a much deserved rest after next weekend's derby match against Jubilo, when the league takes it mid-season break for national team games. Several of the players look as though they need it.

Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Kei Yamaguchi (Tomohiro Tsuda 60), Keiji Yoshimura, Naoshi Nakamura
Keito Sugimoto (Yuki Maki HT), Davi
Scorer: Davi 81

Omiya Ardija
Koji Ezumi
Mato, Yasuhiro Hato, Yosuke Kataoka, Park Won Jae
Shin Kanazawa , Chikara Fujimoto, Hayato Hashimoto
Naoki Ishihara, Denis Marques (Kohei Tokita 86), Yoshihito Fujita
Scorer: Fujita 4

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cerezo FW Kaio Out for 3 Months, Return to Brazil

Cerezo Osaka's Brazilian forward Kaio has returned to Brazil, for treatment on the knee ligament injury he picked up in the game against TheSpa Kusatsu on Sunday. He is expected to return to Japan towards the end of June, if all goes well.

Welcome to the Wolfsburg Merry-go-round, Keisuke

Japanese news reports confirm that Keisuke Honda is likely to end up at Wolfsburg, but add that he is likely to replace Yoshito Okubo, who may return to Vissel. Possibly as early as June.

Monday, 11 May 2009

J1 and J2 Highlights on the Web

For those of you in Japan, highlights of the most recent games for each club are available from Hikari TV's Soccer page. Unfortunately, this only has highlights from the most recent game by each club, but is still a useful addition to any J.League fan's bookmarks.

Tsuda Rescues Point for Lackluster Grampus

An injury-time equalizer from Tomohiro Tsuda gives Grampus a barely deserved point at Kobe. Although Vissel rarely threatened Narazaki's goal, they had looked the better team, and had shown great character in coming back from a disastrous start of the second half when Kim gifted Nagoya the lead.

After the heroics of the ACL game in midweek, this was a tired and unimaginative performance from Nagoya. The supposedly refreshed Naosi Nakamura looked anything but, Keiji Tamada is clearly still in need of a game or two to regain his sharpness, and Yoshizumi Ogawa was just a shadow of the inspirational player we saw against Ulsan last Wednesday.

As for the game itself, it was the opposite of the equivalent fixture last year. In that game, an inexperienced referee, who allowed the game to flow, hurt Vissel by doing so. This year, it was Grampus who struggled to cope with free-flowing game that referee Iida allowed. (Iida and his two assistants had experience of refereeing all of one J.League match between them.) You can find the Vissel's Eye view of the game in Alan's report of the game at

Vissel got off to the better start and remained the better team for most of the game. HOwever, they were hurt by the statuesque Marcel up front, which meant they had to rely on long range efforts on goal. The first of these saw Ishibitsu sting Narazak's palms with a 30-yarder. Kitamoto then sent a good chance flashing past the far post, when he should scored. Although Grampus saw a Tamada free-kick come back off the bar (about the only positive contribution Keiji made all game) and a Sugimoto chance ruled out for offside, they otherwise failed to impress in the first half, which ended 0-0.

The second half looked destined to follow the course of the first, with Vissel looking the slightly more organized, but failing to make the breakthrough. However, Kim's calamitous own goal early in the half sparked an increased intensity in the home team. This saw them quickly bounce back and take a deserved lead. Mogi pulled Vissel level when he pounced on a fatal hesitation by Masukawa to poke the ball past the exposed Narazaki. Marcel then converted a dubious penalty after Narazaki was judged to have brought him down, although this looked more like the player choosing to trip over the outstretched arms of the keeper more than anything. It certainly didn't look as though there was any contact, but Narazaki had slid into make a needless diving challenge and the arms were there to fall over. Unless the referee or assistant clearly sees that it was a dive, there was only one likely outcome, especially against a inexperienced crew like yesterday's. 2-1 and Kobe had a deserved lead, even of the manner of the goal was unsatisfactory. They looked likely to see out the game to claim the three points, but Tomoihiro Tsuda on for the ineffective Tamada, outwitted Miyamoto in extra time to ensure that Grampus end a hectic four-week schedule unbeaten over the eight games.

Unlike last year's fixture, where Grampus almost blew a well-deserved win, Vissel succeeded in doing so. This suggests that their hard-working football, is not yet matched by the required mental toughness required to see them rise above a mid-table position. However, they are playing some good football, and are certainly worth going to watch since they play at the best stadium in Kansai, even if the pitch often leaves a lot to be desired.

Vissel Kobe
Tatsuya Enomoto
Yosuke Ishibitsu, Kunie KItamoto, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, Toshihiko Uchiyama
Kim Nan Il, Ryosuke Matsuoka, Hideo Tanaka, Park Kang Jo (Kazuyuki Ganaha 69)
Hiroto Mogi (Norio Suzuki), Marcel (Takayuki Yoshida 63)
Scorers: Mogi 57, Marcel 62 (PK)

Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura, Keiji Yoshimura, Keito Sugimoto (Yuki Maki 69)
Davi, Keiji Tamada (Tomohiro Tsuda 81)
Scorers: Own Goal 50, Tsuda 90+2

Sunday, 10 May 2009

No Botti, No Chance?

Vissel Kobe midfielder Botti is out injured for two months with a pulled muscle in his right leg, sustained in the game against Montedio. This is likely to further hinder their chances of getting a result against Grampus later today.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Honda Gets Another Chance

Keisuke Honda, along with some other Europe based players, has been called up to the squad for Japan's two Kirin Cup games against Belgium and Chile, later this month, and the three World Cup qualifiers in June.

Sorry, only links available are in Japanese.
SpoNichi / ChuSpo / SanSpo

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ulsan Sent Packing

Putting on an impressive display in their final home game of the ACL group stage, Grampus clinch top spot with a comfortable 4-1 over hapless Ulsan Hyundai. The three goal margin means that there is a chance for the Newcastle Jets or Beijing Guoan to leapfrog over the Koreans to claim second in the group.

A dodgy keeper did not help the Koreans, who found themselves 2-0 down before they even really started to play. Ogawa almost caught their 'keeper out as he attempted a clearance in the opening minutes, and his defense clearly had little confidence in him.
Nagoya's encouraging start to the game was almost undone, however, when Jin Soo pounced on a chance after some indecision by Tanaka and Masukawa. Fortunately, he was not able to convert the chance. An inspired Ogawa scored the opening goal with a diving header after a neat nock-back by Maki.

Having gone a goal down, Ulsan gradually started to find their feet and make the game a bit more of a contast. Their main threat came from Jin Soo, who created a shooting opportunity chance, from the edge of the box, after poor clearance by Yoshida on the left. However, Maki doubled Nagoya's lead shortly afterwards with a powerful header from Sugimoto cross. Maki had a good, hard-working game and was key in Nagoya seizing the initiative in this game, although he faded slightly in the second half. Grampus' comfortable cruise was briefly disturbed when Shin Wook brought Ulsan back into the game with header from free-kick just before half time.

HT: 2-1

The second half Grampus continue to control possession and the number of chances and Yamaguchi sliced shot wide, early in the half, after a good pass from Abe out on the left. Next to take a crack at goal was Yoshimura, who saw a pile-driver from 20 yards drift just wide of the upright. Nagoya duly extended their lead when Davi headed in an Abe free-kick, just before the hour. Tamada promptly replaced Davi for final 30 minutes, and although looking rusty, showed enough to suggest that he will help alleviate the scoring problems the team has experienced against the tighter marking of the J.League teams.

Grampus continued to control the match and another Yoshimura rocket drifted just wide, before Ogawa scored his second to make it 4-1. This came from a neatly worked free-kick close to the Ulsan area, with Maki laying the ball back for Ogawa to stroke home a curling shot from 18 yards. Youngster Masaya Sato replaced the tireless Abe for the final 15 minutes and although he did not have enough time to contribute much to the game, again looked capable of holding hi own at this level.

As the clock wound down, a glancing header by Shin Wook drifted agonizingly wide for Ulsan and leaves them sweating for the final group game, where goal difference could well be decisive for the final qualification slot.

Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe (Masaya Sato 77)
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Kei Yamaguchi, Keiji Yoshimura
Davi (Keiji Tamada 60), Yuki Maki, Keita Sugimoto (Akira Takeuchi 70)
Scorers: Ogawa 14, 72, Maki 23, Davi 59

Ulsan Hyndai
Kim Young Kwang
Lee Dong Won, Lee Won Jae, Kim Shin Wook, Lim Jong Eun
Slavcho, Hyun Young Min, You Ho Jun (Oh Jang Eun 40), Lee Se Hwan (Kim Yong Tae 63)
Almir (Park Jun Tae 70), Cho Jin Soo
Scorer: Kim Shin Wook 42

Other Views
Japan Times: Nagoya shuts out Ulsan to advance to ACL knockout stage Nagoya Grampus seals top spot

Prudent Pixie starts Tamada on the bench

For today's ACL match against Ulsan Hyundai, our starting line up is:
Tanaka, Yoshida, Masukawa, Abe
Ogawa, Yamaguchi, Yoshimura
Davi, Maki, Sugimoto

Having lost Magnum for six weeks after the previous ACL game against the clodhoppers from Down Under, manager Stojkovic has sensibly erred on the side of caution. However, I expect we will see Tamada get to play at some point during the game.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Honda Going Walkabout?

The Japan Times reports that former Grampus midfielder Keisuke Honda may be on the move at the end of the Dutch season.

Eighteen months ago, we would have been happy to see him back at Grampus. However, after his lazy performances in his last few games for the team, and for the Olympic team, we are not quite so keen today. Honda could well be a disruptive influence, since he has become somewhat arrogant, assuming he deserves to be in a team regardless of how he plays. However, he is a skillful player, and can defend reasonably well, if he makes the effort to do so, and would help ease the team's lack of creativity when Magnum is out injured. We suspect that he will be eying a move to another team in Europe, but if he come back to Japan, Nagoya should at least show an interest.

Update, May 11. It looks like Wolfsburg may be about to add to their collection of Japanese misfits. Japan Star Keisuke Honda On Wolfsburg Radar

Pixie and Grampus Maturing into Championship Contenders

After a hesitant start to the season, Nagoya have now climbed up to third in the table. Despite a grueling schedule, that has seen them play four ACL games in addition to nine league games over the last eight and a half weeks (and two more games over the next six days).

There are two main reasons for this success. The first is the continuing improvement in manager Dragan (Pixie) Stojkovic. Our opponents were able to counter the predictable 4-4-2 formation that was employed exclusively over the opening few games. A quick adjustment to adopt a 3-5-2 formation during games, or from the start in some games, has seen he team regain the initiative. In addition to being less predictable, these switched in formation have allowed the team to utilize Akira Takeuchi (one of the successes from last year) effectively. So, even though the team has been without two important players for the last few games; Keiji Tamada for the last four, and Magnum for the last three, the team has three wins and draw from those games.

The other factor in the team's rise up the league table, and unbeaten run in the ACL, is its increased control of possession in games. This was particularly evident against the Newcastle Jets and against Sanga. Although they tried to keep possession in some of the early games, they did not do so very effectively. That has changed, and means that they have been able look comfortable without have to expend too much energy. Although this has led to some less than exciting performances, with two of it most influential players out injured, that is unavoidable. It will put the team in shape when Tamada and Magnum return. Just as teams in Europe benefit from playing in the Champions League and other European competitions, so J.League teams seem to be learning from their experience in the much more grueling (in terms of travel) ACL. The four teams atop the league table all have ACL experience.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Grampus Cruise Past Sorry Sanga

Nagoya eased to a 1-0 away victory over Kyoto at Nishikyogoku yesterday afternoon. The narrow score line does not reflect the team's almost total domination of possession, but probably reflects that they did no more than they had to to win the game. For a Grampus fan, it was an encouraging performance especially as we were without Magnum, Tamada and Yoshimura. For Sanga fans, like Goru Noura at Oretachi no Kyoto, it will have been a worrying game. Such was Nagoya's control that for much of the game only Maya Yoshida and Takahiro Masukawa needed to play as out-and-out defenders, and still managed to marshal Diego and Paulinho fairly effectively.

The victory, which moves Grampus up to third, was comfortable if less than entertaining. Grampus were clearly trying to conserve energy and kept possession well against an opponent that was unable to force them to play better. The match gave youngster Shinta Fukushima useful playing time with the first team, and he acquitted himself well. He worked hard, alongside Kei Yamaguchi, as one of the holding midfielders and should have earned a chance to get more playing time, even if this may be as a substitute when Magnum and Yoshimura are available.

As for the game itself, there is not much to say. Nagoya controlled possession much of the time, but did not create many chances. (The statistics say they had two shots over the 90 minutes.) Davi scored with a simple header after good work by Keita Sugimoto close to half time and that was enough. The narrow lead proved sufficient as apart from the occasional counterattack, which Maya and Masu usually dealt with quite easily, Sanga did not look like scoring. Only a looping effort from Diego, that clipped the top of the bar, gave Narazaki any real work to do. (Having seen replays on SkaPa, it seems Grampus should have been awarded a penalty, when Davi was brought down midway through the opening half. No contact with the ball and clear contact with the Brazilian, but his reputation probably saved Sanga, as did the lack of appeals from our players apart from Davi himself.)

It was surprising to see Yohei Toyoda not get to play at all. He may be struggling to make an impression in J1, but he would have been motivated against his old club, and Sanga needed someone to try and make things happen up front. An opportunity last, I feel.

Kyoto Sanga
Yuichi Mizutani
Tatsuya Masushima, Hiroki Mizumoto (Koken Kato 89), Lee Jung Soo, Yuta Someya
Daigo Watanabe, Jun Ando, Yuto Sato, Takenori Hayashi (Yusuke Nakatani 67)
Diego, Paulinho (Kim Seng Yong 57)

Seigo Narazaki
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Kei Yamaguchi, Naoshi Nakamura (Taishi Taguchi 82), Shinta Fukushima (Tomohiro Tsuda 71), Yoshizumi Ogawa
Keita Sugimoto (Akira Takeuchi 83), Davi
Scorer: Davi 41

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Tamada Loses Injury Race

Keiji Tamada has resumed training, but looks unlikely to figure in today's game against Kyoto. And in a late development that may cheer Sanga fans, it looks like rookie Koji Hashimoto may get to start against them. In addition to the injured Magnum, it looks like Keiji Yoshimura may also be missing today.

It look like Grampus have a half their thought on Wednesday's upcoming ACL clash, despite being all but mathematically assured of progress to the knockout stage.