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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Gasmen Escape with Point in Nabisco Cup Opener

A last gasp goal by Shigematsu earns the home team a point at the start of the Bread Crumbs Cup. Ajinomoto Stadium played host to 12,000 in a surprisingly large turnout for the opening game in this year's tourny. Despite the arrival of Tulio, the team has yet to rid itself of its habit of letting games slip their grasp in the last few minutes.
































































































































































































FC Tokyo 2 2 Grampus
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda Koji Nishimura 21 GK
DF 33 Kenta Mukuhara Hayuma Tanaka 32 DF
DF 15 Daishi Hiramatsu yellow.gif Mitsura Chiyotanda 3 DF
DF 6 Yasyuki Konno Tulio 4 DF
DF 17 Kim Young Gwon yellow.gif Shohei Abe 6 DF
MF 2 Yuhei Tokunaga Danilson 20 MF
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu (OUT HT) Naoshi Nakamura 7 MF
MF 18 Naohiro Ishikawa Igor Burzanovic 9 MF
MF 14 Hokuto Nakamura Mu Kanazaki 25 FW
FW 11 Tatsuya Suzuki Josh Kennedy yellow.gif 16 FW
FW 13 Sota Hirayama Magnum 8 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 1 Hitoshi Shiota Yoshinaari Takagi 50 GK
DF 3 Masato Morishige yellow.gif Akira Takeuchi 2 DF
MF 8 Toshihiro Matsushita Alex Santos 38 MF
MF 19 Yohei Otake Yoshizumi Ogawa yellow.gif 10 FW
MF 9 Shingo Akamine Keiji Yoshimura 14 MF
FW 16 Ricardinho Keiji Tamada 11 FW
FW 24 Kentaro Shigematsu Keita Sugimoto 19 FW















































































Hirayama 68'

Shigematsu 90+2'

Scorers

Kennedy 30'

Chiyotanda 74'

FC Tokyo

Timeline

Grampus

yellow.gif Card Josh Kennedy 16'

GOAL Josh Kennedy 30'
Hanyu > Morishige 46' Substitution

Daishi Hiramatsu 48' yellow.gif Card
Suzuki > Shigematsu 55' Substitution

Masato Morishige 58' yellow.gif Card
Sota Hirayama 68' Goal

Nakamura > Otake 68' Substitution
Substitution Kanazaki > Tamada 72'
GOAL Mitsuru Chiyotanda 74'
Substitution Burzanovic > Ogawa 83'
yellow.gif Card Yoshizumi Ogawa 86'
Kentaro Shigematsu 90+2' Goal


Monday, 29 March 2010

Gamba 2-2 Vegalta

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Peter's back again with a report on the Gamba. (For those of you wondering, Grampus did not play this week due to HIroshima's ACL commitments.)

Gamba are on the way back. The result may look not very different from that in the Albirex game, but the performance, especially in the second half, was altogether better. This was a fascinating and interesting game. Three of the goals were from penalties. If Uemoto set the Reds on their way against Cerezo with a catastrophic error at Nagai, the just returned Yamaguchi threw away Gamba's first league victory with a blatant and unnecessary hand-ball in the first minute of injury time.

The first two goals, both penalties, cancelled each other out in the sense that both decisions were 50-50, in my opinion. The first, against Gamba for pushing at a corner, was dicey because although there was undoubtedly contact, it's very doubtful if there was much pressure on the Vegalta player. For Gamba's penalty, there is no doubt that the players got their legs tied up a bit, but when you see the slow motion replay it's clear that in the final moments the Vegalta player's leg was outside Hashimoto's rather than in between Hashimoto's two legs--Hashimoto made a meal of it, and I think most refs would have given a penalty in live action. I feel on both these penalties that, if the ref had had the benefit of slow-motion replay, he might have given neither; but in the heat of the moment you can't blame the ref for giving either. Both incidents gave the impression that there should be a penalty without the reality quite corresponding to the appearance, in my opinion.

The highlight of the game was a brilliantly, taken goal from Hirai after a speedy break by Sasaki down the right and a fast low cross which Hirai met first time more or less in front of the Vegalta goalie's left post and, swiveling, hit hard into the top far corner. This was Hirai's first ever goal in the league.

The equalising penalty came after Yamaguchi, behind other defenders and Vegalta players, jumped too early for a cross from Vegalta's right, left his hand straight up in the air above his head as he came down and, unfortunately for him, the ball made firm contact with it. That is on the charitable, but probably correct, assumption that it was not deliberate hand-ball.

Although Vegalta had played it tight in the first half, they had already looked a bit more adventurous in the first eight minutes of the second half. Gamba should probably have scored in that slightly tentative first half. The first half was half-way between the level of the Albirex game and the level of the second half. If the ref's 50-50 decision on the first penalty was partly motivated by a desire to liven things up, he certainly succeeded. After that, Gamba really went for it, while Vegalta were often dangerous on the break.

One is inclined to think that Gamba looked the classier side and deserved to win; on the other hand, Vegalta twice hit the woodwork after good moves. So, perhaps, a draw was a fair result. The ball that hit the bar was a brilliant header from Nakahara who, nearer to the winger than the post was to the winger, met a fast cross that was not much more than waist height and, somehow, flicked it up over his shoulder--if it had gone in, it would have been a brilliant and spectacular goal. That was the second-ranking highlight of the match.

As Ryang Yon-Gi scored both of Vegalta's penalties, he is now the sole top scorer in J1 with 4.

Goals: Ryang (53 pen), Endo (78 pen), Hirai (84), Ryang (96 pen).

Team: Fujigaya; Kaji, Nakagawa, Yamaguchi, Takagi; Hashimoto, Myojin, Endo, Futagawa (Sasaki 71); Cho (Ze Carlos 71), Hirai (Michihiro Yasuda 88)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Kansai Roundup (Round 4: The Late, Late Show)

This week saw more heroics from the purple hearts in Kyoto and miracle of miracles, Vissel managed to earn a point against the rampant Marinos.

Vissel logo

Vissel Kobe 1-1 Yokohama Marinos


A last gasp free kick, five minutes into added time, earns Vissel a deserved share of the points against a Marinos team that was far below the form it showed in demolishing Frontale. Popo's 25-meter effort just reward for the home team. Indeed, Kobe should probably have won this game, but profligate finishing kept them from capitalizing on an otherwise good performance.

kyotosanga-s.gif

Jubilo Iwata 2-3 Kyoto Sanga


And yes, it was another late, late goal that earned Sanga all three points against struggling Jubilo in Iwata. This time. it was a Nakayama goal two minutes into added time that did the damage. Earlier, veteran Yanagisawa nothced the 99th goal of his illustrious career, with well taken first-time shot from a long, raking pass from Ando.

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Cerezo Osaka 2-3 Urawa Reds


Alas, Cerezo could not follow Vissel and Sanga's example and lost at home, despite another good game. Although the home team edged the amount of possession, the visitors showed more intent and the mercurial Edmilson had one of his good days, banging i both second half goals that sealed the points. (See Peter's report below for all the gory details.)

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Yokohama FC 1-2 Tokushima Vortis


Tomohiro Tsuda struck for the second game running, to give the visitors a half time lead. He then extended Tokushima's lead before former Japan golden boy Oguro pulled a goal back for the home team. The results leaves Vortis clear at the top of J2 as the only team in the j.League with a 100% record.

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Gamba Osaka 2-2 Vegalta Sendai


Meanwhile in the final game of the weekend, Gamba battled to 2-2 draw against the newly promoted Sendai. And yet again it was a late goal by North Korean Ryang that earned the visitors the point that denied Osaka their first win of the season.

Cerezo 2-3 Reds

cerezoosaka-s.gif
Peter's take on the events at Nagai Stadium yesterday.
Cerezo's loss resulted from giving the ball away too often in their own half and trying to walk the ball into the net. Two of the statistics confirm the story, which anyway stood out like a sore thumb to the game's observers: Cerezo had 53% of the possession, but the Reds outshot them 14 to 7.

3-5-2 again. Amaral came back to right midfield, with the defence reverting to Haneda, Moniwa and Uemoto. No other changes. Kagawa played in central midfield and Omata took the wide left position. After a slight knock but mainly for tactical reasons, Moniwa was subbed by Ienaga in the 71st minute, and Ishigami replaced Omata in the 77th.
Kim; Haneds, Moniwa, Uemoto; Takahashi, Amaral, Martinez, Kagawa, Omata; Inui, Adriano


This game was something of a moment of truth for Cerezo. Cerezo again held their own in midfield, but in this game we saw the weakness of Levir Culpi's Brazilian football compared with the more direct European style of Volker Finke. Having said that, I was really put off by the continual cheating and diving of Ugajin (I think), which left a really bad taste in the mouth--the Braziian-style gamesmanship came mainly from him in this game, and he managed to get Adriano a yellow card for an innocuous incident. In general, the ref was too fussy, although I'm not suggesting that was a reason why Cerezo lost.

Apart from the risks in Cerezo's style of play, the Reds were also able to expose the limitations of three of Cerezo's players: Uemoto, Amaral and Omata. All three are too slow thinking, and Uemoto and Amaral are also short of speed. At this level Cerezo's Brazilian style of play requires quick thinking. Most of the players are capable of that, but, in my opinion, not these three.

The order of the goals was 0-1 (Tanaka 21), 1-1 (Adriano 21), 1-2 (Edmilson 54), 2-2 (Kagawa 79) and 2-3 (Edmilson 80).

The first goal was a gift from Uemoto, although the commentators said Haneda. Faced unchallenged with a routine clearance on the six-yard line, Uemoto just rolled the ball right along the line straight to Tanaka, who had a simple of job of banging it in the net past Kim. It wasn't obvious what Uemoto was thinking of: I don't think he was trying to make a gentle pass to a colleague, unless he completely failed to notice Tanaka and was rolling it to Kim to boot clear; on the other hand, he didn't obviously take a big swing at the ball and make a terrible miskick, so one assumes he was trying to find a colleague just outside the penalty area, took his eye off the ball and got it wrong. It's a mystery, but, whatever, a terrible blunder. Put it together with back-up goalie Matsui's three give-aways this season, and you have to say Cerezo are looking error-prone in defence.

This impression was confirmed by Edmilson's second and Urawa's decisive goal. After a long hopeful punt in the general direction of Edmilson, Uemoto looked favourite to get the ball about twenty-five yards out, but somehow he failed to hold Edmilson off and once Edmilson got a touch on the ball he performed superbly, holding Uemoto off taking the ball to about the six-yard line where Uemoto missed his tackle, then holding off another defender until about two metres from the goal line and squeezing the ball through Kim's legs from a very narrow angle and scoring in off the far post. Kim also might have done better here, but, from the Reds' point of view, it was a brilliant individual goal from Edmilson.

The Reds' second goal was from a misplaced pass by Amaral in midfield but in the Cerezo half and then some slick inter-passing between Tanaka and Edmilson which put Edmilson through and he provided a high-class finish. This was not the result of a defensive blunder by Cerezo but due to top-class movement from the Reds, but nevertheless illustrated the point that you can't afford to give away possession in your own half at this level of football. Mind you, the Reds were very sharp at intercepting passes throughout the match, and they deserve credit for that.

Adriano's goal resulted from intricate very short inter-passing between him and Kagawa surrounded by defenders about fifteen metres out straight in front of goal, persistence by Adriano, a lucky break of the ball to put him through and a clinical finish from about six metres. Cerezo's second goal came from a good break down the left by Ishigami, soon after he had replaced Omata, a beautiful glancing header from Martinez that came back off the inside of the post and Kagawa in the right place to make no mistake from the rebound.


Personally, I would prefer the team selection to be more like last week at the back, with Amaral replaced in midfield by Haneda and Fujimoto coming into the back three. I would also replace Uemoto with Ishigami. I understand why Culpi wants Uemoto: he has good elevation and is good with the outside of his head--but not with his feet and the inside of his head.

Unlike the games with Gamba and FC Tokyo, this game left one concerned for Cerezo's season. Unless they can cut out errors at the back and start shooting when they have three-quarter chances, instead of trying to walk the ball into the net, Cerezo could have a long, hard season in front of them. To be fair, the last three games have been against tough opponents, and Kyoto Sanga will be no walkover next Saturday even at home; but that match has now become one in which Cerezo must show that they are occasionally capable of winning at J1 level. Otherwise, confidence could start to drain away. The team looked devastated by Urawa's immediate response to Kagawa's goal and rather despondent after the final whistle. Two points from four games!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Naoshi Makes Winning Return to Starting Lineup

Having missed the opening game through injury, the bustling Nakamura helped inspire a comfortable 2-0 win over local rivals Jubilo. While I do not think using him as a defensive midfielder is the best use of his talents, he can be quite effective; but is a bit inclined to pick-up needless yellow cards in his enthusiasm. Today was one of his better days. The results leaves us nicely positioned in 5th place, one point behind league leaders S-Pulse.



Meanwhile Igor Burzanovic, who has looked less than impressive so far this season, got us off to a brilliant start, firing in from inside his own half after only a few seconds. It then took as another 87 minutes to make the game safe, but eventually ran out comfortable winners despite a less than fluid performance. A team still seeking its rhythm after the infusion of new players, is looking good after three games.
































































































































































































Grampus 2 0 Jubilo
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki Naoki Yatta 21 GK
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka Yuichi Komano 5 DF
DF 4 Tulio Keiichi Kaga 2 DF
DF 5 Takahiro Masukawa Lee Gang Jin 13 DF
DF 38 Alex Santos Park Joo Ho 14 DF
MF 7 Naoshi Nakamura Daisuke Nasu 6 MF
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa Sho Naruoka 10 MF
MF 9 Igor Burzanovic Norihiro Nishi 11 MF
FW 25 Mu Kanazaki Takuya Matsuura 24 FW
FW 11 Keiji Tamada Ryoichi Maeda 18 FW
FW 16 Josh Kennedy Lee Keun Ho 33 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 21 Koji Nishimura Akihiko Takeshige 31 GK
DF 3 Mitsuru Chiyotanda Jo Kanazawa 16 DF
DF 6 Shohei Abe Shuto Yamamoto 20 DF
MF 8 Magnum Yusuke Yamamoto 23 MF
MF 14 Keiji Yoshimura Kota Ueda 27 MF
FW 17 Yuki Maki Keisuke Funatani 28 MF
FW 19 Keita Sugimoto Tomoyuki Arata 19 Fw


























































Burzanovic 1' (A 55 meter effort from Josh's lay off.)

Kennedy 88'

Scorers

Grampus

Timeline

Jubilo

Burzanovic 1' GOAL
Burzanovic 54' yellow.gif Card

Substitution Nishi > Arata 62'

Substitution Naruoka > Yamamoto 69'
Tamada 73' yellow.gif Card
Burzanovic > Yoshimura 74' Substitution
Nakamura > Magnum 80' Substitution
Tamada > Chiyotanda 87' Substitution
Kennedy 88' GOAL


Kansai Roundup (Round 3)

Another quick look at how our local teams fared over the weekend.

Vissel logo

Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Vissel Kobe


Eddie Bosnar's stunning free kick sinks Kobe, just as they looked likely to hold out for well-earned draw. Okubo played the full 90 minutes, but rarely threatened the S-Pulse goal and is clearly still feeling the effects of his injury.

kyotosanga-s.gif

Kyoto Sanga 2 - 1 Vegalta Sendai


The second home game in a raw at Nishikyogoku and this time Sanga managed to send their fans home happy with a win. They were out shot 19-6, and Sendai had the bulk of possession, but the home team made their few chances count. An encouraging win that sees the team rise into the top half of the table.

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FC Tokyo 0-0 Cerezo Osaka


Another encouraging performance from the cherry pink side of Osaka, and another draw. The return of Korean goalie KIm kept them in the game during the first half when FC Tokyo had the advantage, but the visitors should have stolen it at the end as Ryuji Bando missed a couple of glorious opportunities to seal the win.

Peter Pakeman beamed in the following report on this game:
Despite the lack of goals, this was another fascinating game, especially for those interested in seeing how Cerezo will do in J1. A draw was a fair result but it could easily have been 3-3.

As well as getting Kim back, Culpi changed the outfield by dropping Amaral, moving Haneda up to right wide midfielder to take Amaral's place and replacing Haneda with Fujimoto in the back three. At the news level, this came as a complete surprise to me as I had seen no hint of injury to Amaral since his unexplained non-appearance in the friendlies on February 27 or that Culpi was thinking of doing this. At the football analysis level, I understand it: as I wrote to you guys Amaral is nothing special (unlike Martinez, who is terrific) and in previews for the first game some who's whos expected Fujimoto to start. I also like Fujimoto.

For some reason, Cerezo players sometimes had difficulty keeping their feet, and this came back to hurt them as, after a brilliant bit of individual work, Kagawa slipped in the Tokyo box at the death. Even more at the death, Bando missed a sitter with the second-last kick of the game--after his miss there was only the goal kick.

I think that will do for now. I'm anxious to get back to Villa v. Wolves, but here are the stats:
Tokyo > Cerezo
Shots: 10 > 10
GKs: 11 > 9
CKs: 5 > 2
FKs: 14 > 25
Poss.: 49% > 51%

Cerezo have virtually held their own with Gamba and FC Tokyo in successive weeks.


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Gamba Osaka 0-0 Albirex Niigata


A far less encouraging point was 'earned' over at Banpaku, as the home team struggled to overcome a team they should easily have beaten. This game was highlighted by a petulant fit by Brazilian Pedro Junior, after failing yet agin to impress and being subbed 20 minutes after he himself came on as a sub.

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Tokushima Vortis 3 - 1 JEF United


Naruto based Vortis, made it three on the trot, with former Grampus forward Tsuda capping another good game with a goal. This leaves only Yokohama FC and Vortis themselves with maximum points from three games.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Honda Send CSKA into CL Quarters

Local (Osaka) lad Keisuke Honda seals another impressive performance for the Muscovites by scoring the decisive goal that took them through to the final eight. WHile his swerving free kick should probably have been saved, he ended this game with an assist and a gaol.



BBC Sport: Sevilla 1 - 2 CSKA Moscow (agg 2 - 3)

Monday, 15 March 2010

VIssel Kobe 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Meanwhile, Alan was over at Wing Stadium (Oops, Home's Stadium) to take in the other local game.

Vissel Kobe entertained ACL entrants Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the 2nd game of the J.League season, and the game started quickly for the home team as Yoshida got in a snap shot on the volley after 13 seconds, forcing the first save of the game, with Sato sneaking behind Komoto at the other end a minute later, to almost get into the end of a long ball out of defence.

Vissel used Ishibitsu and Popo on the wings to good effect in the opening stages, although Popo didn't manage to get in a decent cross from two early attempts with players waiting in the middle. Vissel were also noticeably pressuring the Sanfrecce midfield and Kobayashi intercepted a stray pass in the 11th minute and hit it first time from over 40 yards. It was well wide, but it showed the tactics of the team, and the confidence of the left back in having a go! In quick succession, then, Yoshida forced a save and Matsuoka had a shot deflected for a corner. Vissel's pressure and confidence was telling and looked the side more likely to score. And then, from a free kick gained as Sato went to ground between two defenders, Nakashima headed in from near the penalty spot and the away team was ahead.


It was noticeable how impressively and quickly the whole Sanfrecce team changed their formation depending on the state of play. The flat three backs were immediately augmented by two full backs and three defensive midfielders whenever the ball was lost, while Makino, when the ball was regained by Sanfrecce, would become a left winger and one of the Morisaki twins would slot immediately into a centre back position to cover him. The movement of the whole team was fluid and the formation changed at the drop of a hat .... so why did this team that seemed so open to tactics use the long ball at every opportunity? Stoyanov would invariably get the ball at the back, and suddenly there were five Hiroshima players lined up against the Vissel backs and the long ball would come again (and again, and again). Komoto and Kitamoto mopped up these pointless long balls time and time again.

The score remained 1-0 to Sanfrecce at half time and coach Miura brought on Okubo in place of Kobayashi at the beginning of the 2nd half, with Mogi moving to left back. This gave Vissel more pace and skill on the left and Mogi was up and down the wing on the left causing problems, while Ishibitsu was more active in the 2nd half, with Popo starting to fade on the right.

Vissel continued their crisp passing and good movement, while Sanfrecce continued to pump long aimless balls up the field from the defence whenever they had possession. Then, again, VIssel conceded another goal from nothing, as Sanfrecce actually played the ball along the left wing and then the cross came over and Takahagi volleyed home from 12 yards. 0-2, a quiet crowd and a disbelieving Vissel Kobe team.

Botti made his first appearance of the season in the 65th minute, replacing Popo ... he was not to be on for long, but we're getting ahead of ourselves! In the 67th Ishibitsu lined up a free kick, but it was hit against the wall, but Park returned a cross from the right and a Sanfrecce hand was judged to have made contact and a PK was given. The PK was duly dispatched calmly to the keeper's left by Okubo to raise the hopes of the home crowd.

Minutes later Okubo and Botti combined to send Mogi through on the left and his shot went agonisingly past the far post. Next up it was Matsuoka who got in on the act with a shot deflected for a corner and a minute later an Ishibitsu free kick hit the wall, and two more shots were blocked in quick succession.

With ten minutes to go Fukuoka University student Nagai was given his debut by Vissel and was soon in the action. Unfortunately, for him, the action caused a bloody nose and he was off the field for most of the last ten minutes. Even with ten men, Vissel continued pushing but then Botti picked up his 2nd yellow card for a late tackle on Makino and Vissel were down to nine on the field! This put a little damper on the big comeback with Nagai only returning as lost time approached. In the dying moments Vissel pressure continued and Okubo had a penalty claim denied, while Komoto saw a diving header slip past a post

Cerezo Tame Gamba

Peter gives us his take on the Osaka Derby at Nagai Stadium yesterday. (The headline is mine, not Peter's)

Mark and I were among the more than 37,000 spectators who turned up to watch the first draw in the J-League history of the Osaka derby; the stats for which now read played 25, Gamba 16, Cerezo 8, drawn 1.

Gamba showed their usual class, but showed the lack of energy they have displayed since half-time in the Grampus match. Their classy football was not surprising. What was surprising was that an unchanged Cerezo team from the team that started last week with seven new members matched them for class, and showed an unbelievable (literally !) improvement in the team understanding from the Ardija match.

With the referee Tojo being very kind to a Lucas frequently diving like a dying swan, but dishing out a yellow to Adriano when he was genuinely felled by a hard, but fair, tackle in the box, Cerezo showed a strong spirit to overcome adversity. This was particularly true after no.2 goalie Matsui gave Gamba the gift of a goal in the 64th minute. Matsui, who looked shaky on set pieces throughout, finally in open play completely messed up a straightforward save from a 26-metre drive by Myojin and somehow allowed the ball to go straight through his body and into the net. Matsui did look a bit better than last week: apart from set pieces and the critical error, he looked quite a neat goalie with intelligent distribution, and he made a couple of good saves!

As this was the third time that Matsui had made a howler and given away a goal in two games, I thought Cerezo might be disheartened, but none of it. They came back hard and looked the better team in the last 25 minutes. They equalised in the 70th minute from a terrific solo goal from Adriano, who made a long run down the left channel and then cracked the ball in from a narrow angle off the far post.

For Gamba, Shimohira looked classy; for Cerezo Martinez was masterful and defenders Moniwa and captain Haneda both played solid games, with Uemoto much improved on last week and looking strong in the air.

If Cerezo can keep up this spirit and this class of football, with no.1 goalie Kim returning next week, they could easily finish in mid-table.

It's completely incredible but, if Matsui had not given Gamba a goal, Cerezo would have won this match. Anyway, the Cerezo fans appreciated the performance, as, just for once, Cerezo gave a good account of themselves in front of a big crowd. Culpi may know what he is doing with his 3-5-2 formation. It was beautiful to watch two teams who both wanted to play good football.


Cerezo:
Matsui;
Haneda, Moniwa, Uemoto; (who frequently switched positions)
Amaral, Kagawa, Martinez, Omata, Takahashi;
Inui (Ienaga 87), Adriano (Bando 87)

Gamba: (4-4-2)
Fujigaya;
Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi, Shimohira;
Hashimoto, Myojin, Endo, Futagawa (Pedro Junior 67);
Lucas, Cho (Hirai 81)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Kansai Roundup (Round 2)

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Cerezo Osaka 1 - 1 Gamba Osaka


This week saw our two biggest local teams in action against each other. Cerezo gaining a well-deserved draw against rather tired looking Gamba at Nagai Stadium. A game that attracted 37,000 fans, who were well rewarded by an entertaining game that the home team could easily have won. This game will have given the young, inexperienced team a lot of confidence.

Vissel logo

Vissel Kobe 1 - 2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima


Kobe's Captain Marvel came off the bench and even scored for the home team, but was unable to prevent the classy visitors from taking all three points.

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Kyoto Sanga 1 - 1 Kashima Antlers


This was probably the result of the day for our local teams. A Kyoto team that last week looked in dire danger of imploding, managed to snatch a point from the defending champions.

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Giravanz Kitakyushu 1 - 3 Tokushima Vortis


And finally, Tokushima travelled all the way to Kitakyushu but emerged victorious and sit joint top of the J2 table with maximum points from two games. New signing Hirashige opening his account after a couple of bad misses last week.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Frontale Edge 5-Goal Thriller :-(

Kawasaki demonstrated their resilience and class against a Grampus team still struggling to gel, taking an 2-1 half time lead and surviving sustained pressure in the second to eventually emerge 3-2 winners. This came courtesy of a late Chong Tese blast, as the North Korean international hit a fierce drive on the turn to clinch the victory for the visitors.
































































































































































































Grampus 2 3 Frontale
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki Eiji Kawashima 1 GK
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka Yusuke Mori 19 DF
DF 4 Tulio Kosuke Kikuchi 17 DF
DF 5 Takahiro Masukawa Hiroki Ito 2 DF
DF 6 Shohei Abe Takanobu Komiyama 8 DF
MF 14 Keiji Yoshimura Junichi Inamoto 20 MF
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa Hiroyuki Taniguchi 29 MF
MF 8 Magnum Yusuke Tasaka 6 MF
FW 25 Mu Kanazaki Masaru Kurotsu 7 FW
FW 11 Keiji Tamada Renatinho 34 FW
FW 16 Josh Kennedy Chong Tese 9 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 50 Yoshinaari Takagi Rikihiro Sugiyama 28 GK
DF 3 Mitsuru Chiyotanda Jun Sonoda 5 DF
MF 7 Naoshi Nakamura Yusuke Igawa 4 DF
MF 9 Igor Burzanovic Tomonobu Yokoyama 18 DF
MF 20 Danilson Yuji Kimura 22 MF
MF 38 Alex Santos Junpei Kusukami 16 MF
FW 17 Yuki Maki Kyohei Noborizato 23 MF
























































































Kanazaki 6'

Magnum 78'

Scorers

Renatinho 3'

Tese 16'

Tese 90'

Grampus

Timeline

Frontale

Goal Renatinho 3'
Mu Kanazaki 6' GOAL

Goal Chong Tese 16'

yellow.gif Card Renatinho 20'

yellow.gif Card Kosuke Kikuchi 25'

Substitution Kikuchi > Sonoda 29'

yellow.gif Card Chong Tese 42'
Yoshimura > Danilson HT Substitution Inamoto > Yokoyama HT

yellow.gif Card Takanobu Komiyama 49'
Mu Kanazaki 61' yellow.gif Card
Tanaka > Burzanovic 68' Substitution

Substitution Renatinho > Kimura 77'
Magnum 78' GOAL

Tamada > Maki 84' Substitution

Goal Chong Tese 90'



This game got off to a fast start, Kwasaki taking the lead from a well-taken FK by Renatinho after only three minutes. The Brazilian curling the ball over the wall and past the unsighted Narazaki. However, the lead did not last long as Mu Kanazaki opened his account for us, flicking in the rebound after Kawashima had made a good save to keep out Magunum's header from a deep Tamada corner. Six minutes gone and we had already seen two excellent goals.

The teams continued to probe each other's defenses, Taniguchi trying his luck after 10 minutes with a shot that flew wide and Magnum trying a spectacular overhead kick that was well-saved by the Frontale custodian. Kawasaki regained the lead 10 minutes later, this time from a more fortuitous free kick. CHong Tese's effort cannoned of the wall and was deflected past the wrong-footed Narazaki. This free kick was one of many 'won' for visitors by Renatinho, who having score so early from one, spent most of the rest of the half flopping to the turf at the first opportunity.

The home team then mounted a determined effort to get back in the game, with Tamada, Yoshimura, Kanazaki and Kennedy all having cracks at goal. Tamada in particular was unlucky to see his free kick tipped over by Kawasahima as the clock ran down on the half.

The second half began with both teams making substitutions. Danilson replaced Yoshimura for us, and Yokohama coming on for Inamoto. This seemed to disrupt the flow of the game slightly, as the second half failed to live up to the high quality of the first. It was still an absorbing contest between two evenly matched teams, but lacked the energy of the first.

Kawasaki almost got off to another fast start. Taniguchi clanging Nara's right post after only a minute. Nagoya pressed forward in search of the equaliser, but were not able to assume the level of control they had managed to exert at Banpaku last weekend. Their somewhat disjointed play saw several half chances, and Masukawa had a typically robust blast well parried by Kawashima before Magnum eventually restored parity turning in a Burzanovic cross with a mistimed header. However, Tamada should already have pulled us level by that point. He had a glorious opportunity a few minutes earlier, where his was in space in front of goal, but seemed to give up on his effort to get the ball. I can only assume that he felt was in an offside position, but his failure to make a serious effort to score was very disappointing.

This failure of our forwards to make the most of their half chances eventually hurt the team, as Tese showed them how it should be done as the game was about to enter added time. The burly forward, showing some nimble footwork and excellent balance to fire in the winner as he turned on a sixpence after cushioning the ball into space.

Like last week's game, this was an excellent game and we showed that we are now capable of giving the best teams in the league a good game. As our understanding improves, we should be able to mount a challenge for the title. However, to do so we will need to tighten up at the back. Both games were highlighted by opponents exploiting generous amounts of space on our flanks. Tanaka and Abe are both fast and like to get forward. Their speed means they can often react quickly enough to avert danger, but against the better teams it is generosity we cannot afford. Now we have to see if the team can play at this level against less fancied opposition. This will be the true test of their title aspirations.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Honda Off to Another Flying Start

The Japan midfield maestro strikes again, this time for his new team in Russia, sliding in at the far post to give CSKA a one-goal win over Amkar.

Gamba Osaka 1-1 Hannan Xianye

The KobeSamurai chips in with a review of Gamba's ACL game on Wednesday, which saw the team stymied by Milos and co.


Gamba began this game perhaps expecting an easy night, giving Kimura his ACL debut in goal, with Fujigaya on the bench. Shimohira was also preferred to Michi Yasuda at left back, with Myojin out, feeling the effects of his injury in the opening ACL game late last month. Yamaguchi was also still on the injured list, but was expected back by the end of the month at the latest.

Up front, Pedro Junior made his comeback, and Ze Carlos - down 8 kg in the last six weeks, but still needing to lose more weight - was on the bench. Lucas was captain in the absence of Myojin, and was registered as a forward, so it seemed like an attacking 4-4-3 was the way it would be played.

The backs lined up from right to left: Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi, Shimohira. The midfield was policed by Endo, Hashimoto and Futagawa, and the three up front were Cho - nursing a broken bone in his hand, but on the mend - Pedro Junior - back from a long lay-off, and Lucas.

The game began well with a right wing Kaji cross in the 1st minute being met on the full volley by Cho, with an acrobatic shot from 12 yards out which the keeper managed to push away, but the 7500 crowd were soon seeing that Gamba had not learned their lesson from the Nagoya game, when Endo tried to play his way out of danger and lost the ball in his own area to give away the winning goal. This time it was Nakazawa who shielded the ball on the side of the area but, instead of clearing safely he was dispossessed. The ball fell kindly, though, for Kaji, who, AGAIN, tried to play his way out of trouble. he also lost the ball and the cross came in and the shot his Kimura point blank for a lucky let-off? But, no ... the ball fell to Chan Lu, who dispatched it, via a deflection for a shock opening goal for the away team. Yoor writer, on double duty as stadium announcer, was not enthused when announcing the goal and it was all I could do to stop myself from screaming over the microphone at Nakazawa and Endo to "PLAY IT SAFE"!!

This goal, of course, gave Hannan some confidence and they looked considerably more upbeat for the next few minutes but it was soon noticeable that, even at this early stage of the game, they were already slowing it down, and wasting time!

In the 16th minute, Endo fed Pedro Junior, and he twisted and turned three defenders before finding open space and then, after the hard work, blasted over from six yards out with the goalkeeper out of position! It was noticeable, then, for most of the rest of the half that Gamba's passes were going uncharacteristically astray - passes were going out of play, or straight to a Chinese foot. It was only a penalty kick, earned by Lucas and duly converted by the Brazilian that gave Gamba parity by half time.

There were no changes for either team at half time and the game continued with Gamba holding most of the possession but lacking a killer instinct ... until the best moment of the game in the 53rd minute, as a stream of passes foudn Cho 20 yards out and he glanced at the keeper's positioning and slipped a sublime lob over the defence and keeper, only to see it bounce off the bar. Lucas followed up and his shot was desperately deflected for a corner. The Chinese wall of nine defenders was still holding out the Osaka hordes.

Over the next 20 minutes most of the Gamba players got in on the attacking action - from Kaji, Shimohira and Nakazawa from the back, to the midfield trio - the shots were raining in, but causing little problem for the Hannan goalkeeper.

In the 69th, coach Nishino rolled the dice and brought on Michi Yasuda for Shimohira, and Ze Carlos for the out of touch Pedro Junior. Within a minute or so of his entry, Yasuda had two shots on goal - one being deflected, and one going way over the bar, but the signs were good for a big finish ...

Sadyly, it was not to be and, while Gamba were rarely in danger after that early goal, they could not break down the stalwart defence and came out of this game with a home draw. Not the best result, but, more importantly, were lessons learned?

Gamba Osaka:
GK - Kimura
DF: Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi, Shimohira (Yasuda, 69)
MF: Endo, Hashimoto (Sasaki, 84), Futagawa
FW: Lucas (captain), Pedro Junior (Ze Carlos, 69), Cho

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Another Crucial Lesson

Although Ken, over at the Rising Sun News, likes to diss the AFC Champions League, it is slowly becoming a useful tournament for Japanese clubs. Yes, the standard of the teams is very varied, but the Korean teams in particular provide J-League teams with some serious competition. Last week's game between Gamba and Suwon Bluewings, and Tuesday night's game between the Antlers and Jeonbuk were fast, entertaining games with some good football. They were also the sort of tough physical encounters that Japanese players need to get used to if they are to succeed at the world level.

The J-League is the best league in Asia, but too many of the games lack the sort of intensity that we see regularly in the top leagues, such as the English Premier League, the Spanish Primera League, or when a Japan faces fierce rivals Korea. For teams, such as the Antlers or Gamba, who make a regular appearance in the ACL, exposure to this sort of game will make their players much more able to compete on the world stage. The experience and confidence Atsuto Uchida and Mitsuo Ogasawara will have gained form last night's game will prove invaluable to Japan in the World Cup. As long as the J-League continues to allow its unworldly referees to mollycoddle players who stand there like a lemon waiting for the ball to arrive, rather than moving to meet it ahead of an opponent, then they are always going to find it tough when they go overseas or play competitive international games. They need to toughen up or learn to ride/evade challenges, just to make it into the first team at most clubs in Europe. Nagoya's Maya Yoshida found this out to his cost in Holland, breaking a foot in his first practice game.

Reports on ACL games:
Japan Times (3/10): Endo propels Antlers to triumph
Australian FourFourTwo (2/25): ACL Stalemate for Suwon and Gamba
Japan Times (3/11): Henan Jianye earn draw against Gamba

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Kansai Roundup (Round 1)

Gamba fell to a lively display by the visitors from Nagoya, but how did the other teams in Kansai do on opening day. Pretty much as expected in most cases, although Vissel surprised a few with Popo having a spectacular debut for the maroon bulls.

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Tokushima Vortis 1 - 0 Thespa Kusatsu


Our J2 team got off to a good start, in what we hope will be a successful year that will see them challenge for one of the promotion places. Fresh from their 2-1 win over Urawa Reds in a preseason game, this match was decided by a 21st minute goal by former Cerezo winger Yoichiro Kakitani. Grampus loanee Tomohiro Tsuda started again, but failed to trouble the scorers this time.

Vissel logo

Vissel Kobe 2 - 0 Kyoto Sanga


Kobe surprised many by including the injured Yoshito Okubo on the bench, and surprised even more by actually using him in the game as a late sub for two-goal hero Popo. Keep an eye on Jay's blog entry about this game at La Famiglia di Kobe, which should have more details soon.

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Omiya Ardija 3 - 0 Cerezo Osaka


Doubts about Cerezo's readiness for J1 were confirmed by this result. Peter has this to say:
Cerezo were without regular goalie Kim and had suspect back-ups. Our worst fears came true and Matsui, the stand-in goalie, flapped to give away the first goal--a simple take straight in front of the goal only a yard or two out and he jumped and completely missed it--and the ball was bundled in at the far post (I thought it was an own goal but I think it was awarded to an Ardija player, Hashimoto). The second goal was a soft one Matsui should have saved after Uemoto was turned inside out twice out on the wing and the centre was turned into the net by Ishihara from about 8 metres. The third goal came after a free-kick had hit the bar and both Matsui and a defender made unconvincing attempts to clear, but this time difficult to blame Matsui mainly for the goal.

Cerezo started with seven players who were not in the first team in J2: six new signings and Omata who only played two games last season. Not unexpectedly, another of our fears came about: they played as though they were unfamiliar with each other.

The combination of the absence of Kim, lack of height and weight, and a team of strangers makes me fear the worst for Sunday, but in the long run Cerezo may survive in J1. At lot depends on their resilience in the third game against FC Tokyo (a) when Kim will be back and the players should be getting used to each other.

Will Cerezo have the spirit to recover from the travail of the first two games? With seven new players in the first team, we have no idea.

Other Views
Japan Times: Omiya crushes promoted Cerezo

Grampus Make Bold Statement of Intent!

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Nagoya got their 2010 season off to an impressive start. They edged an entertaining and closely-fought contest at Osaka's Banpaku Stadium 2-1. All our major new signings had good debuts, with Tulio and Mu Kanazaki making outstanding contributions to a winning cause.

An early Tamada goal, tucking home a Josh Kennedy cushioned header after 13 minutes, was cancelled out by a well placed shot into the top right corner by Futagawa in the 20th minute. (However, this goal came from a well-worked corner that should never have been. A Lucas header clipping Narazaki's bar on the previous play, but Blind Pew and co awarded a corner to Gamba.) The teams continued to be evenly matched for remainder of the half, with both teams displaying some slick passing under pressure. The deadlock was broken midway through the second half when Josh put way the loose ball after some more good work by Tamada.


































































































































































































Gamba 1 2 Grampus
Starters Starters
P. No. Name Name No. P.
GK 1 Yosuke Fujigaya Seigo Narazaki 1 GK
DF 21 Akira Kaji Hayuma Tanaka 32 DF
DF 2 Sota Nakazawa Tulio 4 DF
DF 4 Kazumichi Takagi Takahiro Masukawa 5 DF
DF 13 Michihiro Yasuda (OUT 80) Shohei Abe 6 DF
MF 27 Hideo Hashimoto (OUT 63) Keiji Yoshimura (OUT 64) 14 MF
MF 17 Tomokazu Myojin Yoshizumi Ogawa 10 MF
MF 7 Yasuhito Endo Magnum (OUT 90) 8 MF
MF 10 Takahiro Futagawa Mu Kanazaki yellow.gif (OUT 75) 25 MF
FW 9 Lucas yellow.gif Keiji Tamada 11 FW
FW 18 Cho Jae-Jin (OUT 88) Josh Kennedy yellow.gif 16 FW
Subs Bench Subs Bench
GK 29 Atsushi Kimura Yoshinaari Takagi 50 GK
DF 6 Takumi Shimohira Mitsuru Chiyotanda 3 DF
DF 28 Shunya Sugunuma Igor Burzanovic 9 MF
MF 8 Hayato Sasaki Danilson 20 FW
MF 23 Takuya Takei Alex Santos 38 MF
FW 14 Shoki Hirai Yuki Maki 17 FW
FW 16 Dodo Keita Sugimoto 19 FW










































































Futagawa 21'

Scorers

Tamada 14'

Kennedy 68'

Gamba

Timeline

Grampus

GOAL Keiji Tamada 14'
Takahiro Futagawa 21' Goal
Hashimoto > Sasaki 63' Substitution
Substitution Yoshimura > Danilson 64'
yellow.gif Card Mu Kanazaki 65' (For persistently embarrassing Yasuda.)
GOAL Josh Kennedy 68'
yellow.gif Card Josh Kennedy 73'
Substitution Kanazaki > Burzanovic 75'
Yasuda > Hirai 80' Substitution
Cho > Dodo 88' Substitution
Substitution Magnum > Chiyotanda 90'
Lucas 90+3' yellow.gif Card



Paired alongside Masukawa, rather than Chiyotanda, Japan stalwart Tulio had a commanding game. He marshaled the defence brilliantly and made a couple of vital tackles on the rare occasions Gamba did threaten to break through the ranks. The normally agitated Masukawa looked unflappable and had a equally impressive game, suggesting that late substitute CHiyotanda will find it hard to displace his former Avispa colleague for a regular place. More likely, the two of them will alternate in the second central position. Both side backs, Abe and Tanaka coped well with anything that Gamba threw at them, with Hayuma Tanaka free to make some dangerous advances down the right (since Mu dropped back to cover that side when he did so).

Offensively, Mu cruelly exposed Gamba's weakness on its left flank. His speed and power frequently threatening to overrun the outmatched Yasuda. The Gamba defender often relying on some generous protection from referee Okada to bail him out. This constant threat from the pacey youngster, left Ogawa and Magnum free to play more creatively than either managed last season. Both looking sharp and spraying passes to team mates quickly and accurately. Keiji Yoshimua has clearly been forced to raise his game by the arrival of Danilson, and was also far more positive in his play than last year, before making way for the Columbian midway through the second half.

Up front, Josh and Keiji worked tirelessly to deny Gamba time to dwell on the ball. And although the Suita team's crisp, one-touch passes were sharper and slightly more accurate, they were not decisively so as has been the case over the last few years. Indeed this is the first time that we have been equal matches for the Osakans, for a long time, even in games we have managed to win.

The rival fans prepare to usher in a new season
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Gamba-Grampus; the blue-eyed view :-)

Alan's take on the fare at Banpaku.

Gamba Osaka kicked off their J.League campaign at home to Nagoya Grampus on a cool Saturday evening. While Yamaguchi was still out injured, Kaji, Nakazawa and Myojin had all passed fit for this game, giving the back four a more familiar look than in the Xerox Super Cup game last weekend - Kaji and Michi Yasuda as side backs, Nakazawa and Takagi in the centre. Endo and Myojin - wearing the captain's armband - formed a double volante and Hashimoto and Futagawa rounded out the midfield four. Cho and Lucas took the forward duties, leaving Hirai starting on the bench.

The game began well for Gamba with Yasuda getting forward and causing some consternation in the Nagoya defence three or four times in the first few minutes. Nagoya seemed to be starting with a 4-4-3, with Kanazaki and Tamada flanking Kennedy in the middle, so the Gamba back
four and/or the two volantes were going to have their hands full, but it was Gamba making most of the early play, with Lucas bursting forward from his own half in the 6th minute and getting off a shot. Soon after Endo and Yasuda combined to find the left back in space but his
cross-shot was over the goal.


Kennedy was lucky to get away without a yellow card in the 10th minute as he challenged for a ball with Fujigaya and flopped to the ground looking for a penalty when it was clear there was no contact - considering that the referee was Mr. Okada, who would probably looking for the use of arms and simulation in a big way this season, it was a let-off for the Australian forward, and it was Kennedy who rose high above Takagi and Yasuda in the 16th minute to head a deep left wing cross back across to the unmarked Tamada to volley home from point blank range. 0-1!

A minute later and Gamba came close to a quick leveler as Hashimoto fed Lucas in the area. The Brazilian turned two defenders and got the shot off, which Tulio managed to deflect just wide of the post. Two corners in quick succession failed to show dividend but Gamba's tails were up and they were surging forward, and next it was Cho who got on the end of a multi-pass movement to get in a shot that was blocked, and then Lucas headed onto the bar via a deflection from the resulting corner. And, from Gamba's 7th corner, in the 20th minute, the ball came out to Futagawa 20 yards out and he perfectly placed his first time shot into the top corner. 1-1!

Following the goal there was a long and animated discussion between the officials and Stojkvic, with Tulio putting his oar in, too. No-one seemed to have any idea what it was about, but nothing seems to have changed for either the Grampus coach or the former Reds defender.
"respect" is the name of the game! Or should be!


26 minutes, yet another Gamba corner and the ball fell again to Futagawa. This time his identically positioned shot was touched over by Narazaki for Gamba's 10th corner from which Nakazawa's header was deflected wide for yet another corner - but, no! The referee missed the deflection - possibly the only person on the field who did!

The Osaka boys continued to rack up the possession and the goal attempts as half time approached and the passing game was tearing Nagoya apart and creating holes ... even with Nakazawa off the field after on off the ball clash with Kennedy had left him bleeding, Gamba again carved up the away midfield and sent Cho free but the Korean was stopped in a last ditch tackle from Tulio, as he prepared to pull the trigger. Referee Okada missed that corner, too!

Stojkvic noted in half time comments that he would be more careful of Endo in the 2nd half, and try to close down his space - good luck with that!!

Neither side made changes at half time and Gamba began where they left off, with Nagoya hardly able to get a touch of the ball in the first few minutes until the 50th minute when a lucky ricochet found Kanazawa on the right and his low cross looked dangerous, but came to nothing. Minutes later, Endo robbed Yoshimura in midfield and advanced to goal, his curling low shot just slipping past the post with the keeper beaten.

Kanazawa picked up the first yellow card of the game in the 65th minute for persistent infringements, not a moment too soon

Gamba continued to press and pass but the finishing product was not there and coach Nishino decided to pull Hashimoto and on came Sasaki to add some creativity to the midfield. Nagoya countered with the Colombian Danilson, who replaced Yoshimura in the middle of the Nagoya team..
Sasaki soon showed what he could do as he burst down the right wing leaving three defenders in his wake before his cross was blocked by Danilson.


For all the pressure it was Gamba who conceded another soft goal as Endo, who should have known better, tried to control the ball 8 yards from his own goal instead of clearing, and he was robbed, the ball falling kindly to Kennedy who poked the ball into an open goal with Fujigaya on the ground. 1-2, and an uphill battle for Gamba now! And it was that Gamba preference of trying to play the ball out of danger instead of playing safe that saw Yasuda robbed by Tanaka on the right wing when the ball should have been in row Z! Thankfully, Endo blocked and the resulting corner was easily taken by Fujigaya.

At this point, with just over ten minutes to go, Nishino instructed Sasaki to get further up the field, and brought on Hirai up front for Yasuda - sacrificing a defender to go for the points. Myojin moved a little left to cover the gap left by Yasuda, but defence was the last
thing on Gamba's mind now. And the pressure almost paid off as Cho flicked a header down to Futagawa who volleyed against the post from 20 yards out. The rebound fell to Sasaki who streaked the ball across the goal but Hirai missed the chance as the ball sped off the turf with the goal gaping. To be sure this was going to be a very open last session, and it was Hirai again - this time stopped by a sliding tackle from Tulio - who was not quite quick enough to get the shot off as he found himself in space.


With four minutes to go Hirai latched on to a through ball and sliped past one defender to get the shot off, which was deflected into the side netting by Tulio. And so, with three minutes left, the fans got their first chance to see the 19-year-old Brazilian forward Dodo, who came on
to replace Cho, with little time to impress. Nagoya countered by bringing off Magnum and bringing on another centre back to go for a five back finish, hoping to nullify any attacking threat from Gamba. And nullify it they did, with Nagoya holding on for three points that, on
one hand was extremely fortunate, but on the other, it was Gamba who gave away the goals - hopefully lessons learned in the first game of the season!


Gamba Osaka 1-2 Nagoya Grampus

Gamba Osaka:
GK - Fujigaya
DF - Kaji, Nakazawa, Takagi, M. Yasuda (Hirai, 80)
MF - Endo, Myojin (captain), Hashimoto (Sasaki, 63), Futagawa,
FW - Lucas, Cho (Dodo, 86)

Saturday, 6 March 2010

J.League Previews (Round Up J.Media Outllets)

Here is a round up of some of the English previews ahead of the new season. Lets see what the media has to say for itself.

First up, the Japan Times has its usual detailed preview. Not only that, it is now available online.
Japan Times: 2010 TEAM-BY-TEAM J.LEAGUE GUIDE

The best of the rest:
Asahi Shimbum: J.LEAGUE/ Antlers intend to hog it all
Asahi Shimbum: J.LEAGUE/ Return of the favorite sons
Japan Times: Stojkovic hopeful newcomers will bolster Grampus
Daily Gomiuri: J.LEAGUE 2010 / Kashima Antlers / Best Ever? / The sky's the limit as Oliveira's Antlers aim for 4th straight title
Daily Gomiuri: J.LEAGUE 2010 / A Welcome Return / World Cup year sees familiar names, clubs back in J1 as 2010 season vows to be hot

Gamba Better than Villa?

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Here's a bit of light reading for J.League fans ahead of the start of the new season later today. the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) Club World Rankings. There are some weird choices, like Grampus (138) being ranked higher than champions Antlers (147), but it is still interesting to see how Japanese teams are ranked.

The top J.League ranking goes to Gamba Osaka, due to their progress in the Club World Cup. This places them above Premier League teams such as Tottenham Hotspur (122) and Aston Villa (135); a ranking that is likely to cause consternations in the Funky Gibson household.:-)

There is a Japanese article about the these rankings in Shigoto no Kikaku, but the rankings themselves are only available in European languages.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Japan and Australia Ease Past Asian Minnows

Japan had already qualified for next year's Asian Cup, eased past Bahrain 2-0 with an improved performance, but made hard work of turning their control into goals. They should really have won by a more comfortable margin.

The likes of Nakamura, Honda and Hasebe proving that the overseas players (even if Nakamura is now back at the Marinos) will be critical to Japan in the Summer. The question is, can the home-based players raise their game enough to make the squad, now that the J.League is set resume.



Other Views
Japan Times: Japan eases past Bahrain

Meanwhile, the Aussies secured their place at the tournament with a narrow 1-0 win over Indonesia. 'Spike' Milligan bundling the ball home in comical fashion. :-)



Other Views
Sydney Morning Herald: Milligan's first makes it mission accomplished for Asian Cup
ABC Online: Oar set to paddle abroad