Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Grampus Advance to ACL Semis

A late Josh Kennedy strike, sees Nagoya advance to the next stage of the ACL with a 3-1 win in the home leg. After a first half which saw the ties finely poised at 2-1, Nagoya's slightly fresher legs eventually began to tell. Their ever increasing pressure towards the Frontale goal eventually resulted in Magnum being left free as the defenders followed the Aussie in pursuit of a cross. Although Kawasahima managed to parry Magnum;s effort the ball fell loose for Josh to stab home from all of a few inches.

More details and starting lineups to follow (when I am sober again ).

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Grampus Crash Four Past Whinging Wallys

Pixie's gamble pays off as Kashima crash to a 1-4 home defeat. The curse of Kashima Stadium is now well and truly exorcised. Igor Burzanovic played a blinder, reveling in the role of creative force. His touch and vision proved a constant threat to a jittery Antlers defence.

Kennedy got Grampus off to a good start, tucking home the rebound after Igor's initial effort had been parried by Sogahata. The Aussie's height and close control proved a constant thorn in the side of Iwamasa and Iwa at the centre of the Kashima defence. He almost added to his tally with a header from Abe's cross a few minutes later, but it was left to the hapless Sogohata to double Nagoya's lead. The scatter-brained keeper, completely missing an attempted bunt upfield, and allowing the alert Burzanovic to dance past him and slot the ball into the unguarded net.

Having found themselves trailing by two goals after only 13 minutes, the Antlers proceeded to pepper Hirono's goal with long-range efforts. First, Araiba sent one fizzing over from 20 metres, then it was Motoyama's turn to send a couple of shots over the bar. Meanwhile Abe and Tanaka calmly dealt with any attempts to break down the flanks, and Bajalica and Yoshida easily dealt with anything through the middle. The increasingly frustrated Antlers, wilted under our constant pressure and rapid-fire passes in the buildup. This lead to some more crude challenges to try and stifle Kennedy's influence, which resulted towards the end of the half with Iwamasa collapsing after jostling with Josh in the area. There seems little doubt that the Aussie's elbow caught the defender as they jockeyed for space, but whether it was intentional only the mild-mannered forward can tell. Certainly, NHKs coverage makes it hard for the whinging Antlers to make much of a case.

HT: 2-0 to the good guys.

The argy-bargy as the players left the pitch after the first half, gave Stojkovic the perfect excuse to bring on Maki for Kennedy at the start of the second half. A change that would probably have occurred early in the half anyway, but the manager prudently chose to rest his key striker for the return leg of the ACL 1/4 final on Wednesday. Kashima continued to pepper Hirono's goal, but only a Marquinhos shot forced the Grampus custodian to make a save. The Brazilian finally got on the score sheet, heading home a low Ogasawara free kick. This pulled the home team within two goals, after Sugimoto had earlier sent a looping header into the goal to extend our lead. Unfortunately for the home fans, the error ridden defending had not finished gifting us chances. Igor blasted home from 20 metres after an errant pass near the edge of area gave him a clear sight of goal. Indeed, Sogahata almost managed to give him a hat-trick, but a last ditch challenge saved the keeper any further embarrassment.

Overall, this was a good team performance, with Yoshimura and Santos proving effective in midfield without being outstanding. Ogawa and Tamada made brief appearances as subs, but should be fresh for the encounter with Frontale on Wednesday. Despite his goal, Sugimoto did not create much, but bustled effectively in midfield, especially in the second half. The surprise was how effective the combination of Santos, Yoshimura, Magnum and Burzanovic proved. The team was still able to close down the opposition well, but was much sharper in its own buildup. Kawasaki will prove a more realistic test of how effective this prove than the disintegrating Antlers.

Kashima Antlers
Hitoshi Sogahata
Atsuto Uchida, Daiki Iwamasu, Go Iwa, Toru Araiba
Takeshi Aoki (Koji Nakata 61), Mitsuo Ogasawara, Masashi Motoyama (Danilo 57), Takuya Nozawa
Junzo Koroki (Yuya Osako 75), Marquinhos
Scorer: Marquinhos 74

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Keita Sugimoto (Yoshizumi Ogawa 61), Keiji Yoshimura, Alex Santos, Magnum (Keiji Tamada 70)
Igor Burzanovic, Josh Kennedy (Yuki Maki HT)
Scorers: Kennedy 5, Burzanovic 13, 83, Sugimoto 53

Pixie Gambles on Experimental Squad

Nagoya manager Dragan Stojkovic gambles on a faltering Antlers team continuing to do so, as he names an experimental starting lineup for tonight's game. A lineup that suggests that we are concentrating on progressing in the ACL.

Keeper: Koichi Hirono
Defence: Hayuma Tanaka, Milos Bajalica, Maya Yoshida, Shohei Abe
Midfield: Keita Sugimoto, Keiji Yoshimura, Alex Santos, Magnum
Forwards: Igor Burzanovic, Josh Kennedy

Koji Nishimura, Akira Takeuchi, Yoshizumi Ogawa, Sho Hanai, Keiji Tamada, Yuki Maki, Tomohiro Tsuda

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Honda Strikes Again in Dutch Cup

A couple of Keisuke goals see VVV return to winning way after the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Ajax at the weekend. Good to see them bounce back so emphatically.

Asian CL Quarter Final (1st Leg): Kawasaki Come From Behind To Defeat Nagoya 2-1's take of last night's game. A bit over the top, but reveals the European prejudice towards anything that apes the Champion's League.

Asian CL Quarter Final (1st Leg): Kawasaki Come From Behind To Defeat Nagoya 2-1 -

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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Kennedy Bags Away Goal in ACL Quarter-final

In the opening 45 minutes, iIt looked like Frontale had half a mind on the league title. (If they duly close out their downpour interrupted game against Kashima, they will close the gap to four points, with eight games to go. Close enough for Frontale to entertain realistic hopes of catching them. But also close enough to force the Antlers to concentrate on what they are doing.) However, having allowed Joshi Kennedy to give Nagoya an away goal with a header, they fought back in the second half to grab a 2-1 lead.

Inevitably, one of the scorers for Frontale was Juninho, who has tormented our defenders every time we have met this season. No matter who Pixie chose alongside Yoshida, they were always likely to struggle to contain the lively Brazilian. He embarrassed Bajalica in the last meeting between the two sides, and Masukawa was never really like to do much better. However, Grampus made a better game of this encounter than pervious meetings this year and bring an away goal beck for the home leg next week. (Whether they can stop Frontale scoring an away goal of their own, remains to be seen.)

Jesus's goal came from a well-placed header that crept inside the near post. The lanky Soccceroo fearlessly out jumping his marker, despite some fairly crude attempts foul him earlier in the game. Kawasaki's equalizer came from a free kick that saw Moses Nakamura's kick part our wall like the Red Sea. Ogawa jumping out of the way to leave the ball a clear path into the near corner that gave Hirono little chance of making a save. The winner has been credited to Juninho, who tapped home the rebound after Hirono parried an effort onto the bar. None of the replays have shown a view along the goal line, and it looked suspiciously like the ball may have crossed the line before bouncing out to the Brazilian.

Kawasaki Frontale
Eiji Kawashima
Tomonobu Yokoyama, Hiroki Ito, Yusuke Igawa
Kosuke Kikuchi, Kengo Nakamura, Hiroyuki Taniguvhi, Yusuke Mori
Juninho, Chong Tese, Renahtinho (Satoru Yamagishi 79)
Scorers: Nakamura 59, Juninho 63

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Santos 87), Keiji Yoshimura (Igor Burzanovic 71), Magnum
Keiji Tamada (Yuki Maki 87), Josh Kennedy
Scorers: Kennedy 27

Monday, 21 September 2009

Cerezo Enjoy Two Game Cushion in J2

Cerezo Pete gives us his take on Cerezo's romp over Bellmare, as they open up a two game gap (six points) between themselves and the third place team. It is beginning to look like Real Osaka may be back playing derbies against that team from Suita next year. :-)

Cerezo have extended their lead over Bellmare to six points. Ventforet Koufu lost away to Kusatsu. 2nd-placed Vegalta Sendai won.

I watched the game and it was totally dominated by Cerezo. In the first half Cerezo had seven shots on target and eight shots off; Bellmare didn't manage a single shot. Cerezo had seven corners, Bellmare had none.

Bellmare showed a bit more in the second half, but never really offered much threat. They were disrupted by the sending off of ace defender Tamura after about 55 minutes for a second yellow card. The first one was stone cold but perhaps unavoidable--a late tackle just after the ball had gone; the second, in the circumstances was due to a really stupid and unnecessary foul--grabbing a forward by the shoulder and upper arm.

But watching Cerezo is a weird experience. They play this Brazilian style possession football with a lot of technical talent holding on to the ball; but they take a lot of risks playing very accurate passes and quite often give the ball away. And they sometimes give the impression of just playing for the sake of it.

Bellmare hardly got a look-in, with their goal, scored by a defender, coming from a corner in the 88th minute.

When Cerezo do score, it can be very impressive--playing intricate football and then finishing with aplomb--their first goal. Their second came from a beautiful deep cross headed in towards goal and then deflected by Kaio, bringing a brilliant strong block by the goalie at point blank range but unfortunately for him the ball rebounded straight to Fujimoto about 14 yards out, who made no mistake.

I'm still not sure whether Cerezo will have the physical presence and finishing power to survive in J1 if they go up. But they sure can dominate possession in J2.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Magnum and Ogawa Sink Ardija

In a game that saw Grampus revert to its tried, if not entirely trusted, 4-4-2 formation, they eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over lowly Omiya. The game also saw new recruit Igor sitting on the bench, as Magnum made his return after serving a two-match ban.

It will be interesting to see which formation gets used the most, over the remainder of the season. Burzanovic has looked increasingly more at home in the team, and is probably a better option for getting the best out of Tamada. However, he is not suited to a defensive/holding role, and is therefore better suited to the 3-5-2 formation employed over recent games. (Unfortunately, the three-back system needs a more reliable player in the centre than Bajalica has proved to be.) Magnum on the other hand, is more likely to provide the kind of crosses that Josh Kennedy thrives on. He is also a willing, if sometimes over exuberant, bustler in midfield.

Although this game resulted in a comfortable win for Nagoya, this was due as much to Omiya not being very good, rather than a great display from us. Yes, it was a much better performance than our last couple of games, but still far short of our best displays from last year. The first half saw the Saitama team become increasingly frustrated as Nagoya's pressing game prevented them from making any progress. This frustration was further increased whenMagnum chested in Ogawa's low free kick, after Kennedy had been fouled on the edge of the box. Although Ardija made more of an impression in the second half, their exertions were easily handled by Maya and Masukawa. The less than convincing Hirono was rarely troubled, and only had to make a couple of parries of long-range shots.

Tamada and Kennedy were industrious up front, and again looked an effective combination. The first half saw several close calls for Ardija as last-ditch challenges or under hits passes prevented the duo from adding to their tally for the season. Aussie striker Kennedy saw a typically powerful header well saved by Ezumi in the first half, and also saw one shot flash wide. However, his best opportunities came towards the end of the game, when Igor Burzanovic's tricky work down the left channel created a couple of great chances for the Socceroo. The first saw his shot on the turn come back off the inside of the far post. The second saw a similar effort skid just wide.

Omiya Ardija
Koji Ezumi
Kohei Tokita, Yosuke Kataoka, Mato, Yasuhiro Hato
Takuya Aoki (Dudu 83), Hayato Hashimoto, Naoki Ishihara, Chikara Fujimoto (Tomoya Uchida 73)
Rafael, Yoshihito Fujita (Park Won Jae HT)

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Hayuma Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Takahiro Masukawa, Shohei Abe
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Naoshi Nakamura (Alex Santos 87), Keiji Yoshimura, Magnum (Igor Burzanovic 80)
Keiji Tamada (Keita Sugimoto 83), Josh Kennedy
Scorers: Magnum 28, Ogawa 78

Friday, 18 September 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

Honda Lifts VVV to First Win

Venlo finally manage to get into the win column, after five draws to start the season. Calabro tucking home the decisive goal after a Honda free kick had proved too hot for the Heracles 'keeper to handle.

The Japanese playmaker had another impressive game, putting the disappointment of two poor performances when coming on as a sub for Japan. Hey, Oka-chan! The lad needs to be starting games, not coming on in the second half the team is struggling. Let's not repeat the mistakes of France '98.

Other Views
TimeWarp (Japanese photo journal)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Reysol Capitalize on Defensive Errors

Lax defending, especially by a sloppy Bajalica, costs Grampus a chance to close the gap on the leading pack and slip back into a mid-table position. The Serbian defender capped a poor performance by giving away the penalty that restored Kashiwa's two goal lead, after Maya had pulled a goal back. Tamada closed the gap again from the penalty spot after Kennedy had been felled in the area, but Nagoya could muster the composure to find an equalizer.

The 3-2 score was a fair result for Reysol, who looked more organized than Grampus, who badly missed the hustle of Yoshimura and Yamaguchi, and the creativity of Magnum in midfield.

Nagoya Grampus
Koichi Hirono
Akira Takeuchi (Yuki Maki 65), Maya Yoshida, Milos Bajalica, Alex Santos (Tomohiru Tsuda 80)
Yoshizumi Ogawa, Shinta Fukushima (Shohei Abe HT), Naoshi Nakamura, Igor Burzanovic
Keiji Tamada, Josh Kennedy
Scorer: Yoshida 71, Tamada 89(PK)

Kashiwa Reysol
Takanori Sugeno
Yusuke Murakami, Naoya Kondo, Park, Yuzo Kobayashi
Hidekazu Otani, Ryoichi Kurisawa, Yuki Otsu, Minoru Suganuma
Popo, Hideaki Kitajima (Junya Tanaka 60)
Scorer: Otsu 38, MUrakami 60, Popo 82 (PK)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Japan Taught Tough Lesson

Japan sank to a 3-0 loss to Holland, after making a bright start and looking the better team over the opening 45 minutes. Unfortunately, they did not manage to convert this into any goals. Holland responded with some rough tackles, before settling into their rhythm in the second half and running out as comfortable winners.

Although Grampus forward Keiji Tamada worked tirelessly and kept the Dutch defenders at full stretch, he had only one speculative shot to his name. Shinji Okazaki also looked lively, and had Japan's best chance of the half, but failed to control a lofted pass from Nakamura that should have seen Japan take the lead early on. This inability to make control of a passage of play count, does not bode well for the team's chances of progressing far in next year's World Cup. In particular, manager Okada must be frustrated that Japan looked far better in the first half, with Tamada dropping back to link up with the midfield, than in the second when he was replaced by Keisuke Honda. After several inspiring performances for VVV this season, a lot was expected from Honda, but he reverted to the curiously ineffective displays we saw for the Japan U-22's a couple of years ago.

The Japanese View

The Dutch View

Other Views Netherlands 3-0 Japan: Orange Dominate
AFP: Dutch coach apologises to Japanese

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Kim's Dog of a Year Continues

2009 is not Kim Nam Il's year. The hapless South Korean now has a fractured nose. THis is on top of his spectacular own goal against Grampus and a leg injury that kept him out of the team for almost three months. Fortunately, this nose injury only requires him to wear a face guard for a couple of games and is unlikely to prevent him playing.

Of more concern to the Vissel management will be the loss of Gakuto Kondo for a couple of months. The Aichi native has been a regular starter for the last few games, and has looked quite solid.

Official Vissel Releases (in Japanese): Kim Injury, Kondo Injury, Koga Injury (out for three weeks)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Honda to Stay at VVV (+ NEC-VVV Highlights )

With the transfer window rapidly closing, indeed already closed here in Japan, it looks like Keisuke will be playing for VVV until January. Dutch reports seem the confirm this, if my understanding of the article below is correct.
Updated to include latest information about his possible destination come January. PSV?

NUsport: Honda blijft bij VVV-Venlo
Daily Telegraph: Transfer deadline day: live (OK, so maybe not QUITE 'live' anymore) PSV And VVV In Talks Over Keisuke Honda

This makes good sense for Honda, since he can continue to play against better opposition while still being with a club where he is the undisputed key player. Something that would not be true elsewhere, even if he stayed in Holland. It also means that the club may be able to secure its place in the top division, before they lose him. If my memory is correct, Honda signed a contract that would keep him at VVV until the ed of the 2009/1010 season, when he joined from Grampus. THis means VVV should still get a sizable transfer fee come January, since any club would still have to buy out six months of his contract.