Japanese Soccer News - March 2009
Michael Tuckerman reports
J.League | J.League
Betting Tips | Japanese
Shocks continue as Albirex Niigata take
share of J. League lead
The shocks continued in the J. League last weekend, with Albirex
Niigata beating Kashima Antlers on Sunday afternoon to snatch a
share of the J. League lead.
It was a slightly disappointing crowd of 37,808 that turned out
at Big Swan Stadium, but the stay-away fans who preferred the comforts
of home to the cold climes of Big Swan missed a famous victory for
the home side.
Kisho Yano opened his account for the season with an early header,
before mercurial midfielder Marcio Richards played in compatriot
Pedro Junior for Niigata's second.
Daiki Iwamasa scored a scrambled effort some six minutes into
stoppage time at the end of the game, but it proved little consolation
for a Kashima side that was humbled 4-1 by Suwon Bluewings in their
AFC Champions League opener last week.
The other Sunday fixture saw Omiya Ardija beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima
3-2 in a thriller at Big Arch Stadium in Hiroshima - former Suwon
defender Mato Neretljak scored twice in that game - and there were
several points of note in the Saturday fixtures.
Yokohama F. Marinos battled to a scoreless draw away at Shimizu
S-Pulse, as a near-capacity crowd of 19,172 at the newly renamed
Outsourcing Stadium Nihondaira saw the two teams cancel each other
Marinos were missing captain Ryuji Kawai through injury, but with
recalled playmaker Koji Yamase in dangerous form for the Tricolore,
they enjoyed the better of proceedings in blustery conditions in
Yamase came closest to a winner when his thunderous first-half
drive was clawed away by Yohei Nishibe, while S-Pulse talisman Jungo
Fujimoto made his long awaited return from injury - only to see
a late effort cleared off the line after coming off the bench for
Despite picking up their first point of the campaign, Marinos
fans won't have been overly impressed with a display that suggests
they are desperately lacking a goal scorer.
Whether Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura is the answer to coach
Kokichi Kimura's attacking woes remains to be seen, especially since
Marinos already possess a creative force in the form of Koji Yamase.
Elsewhere, Urawa Reds impressed in a 3-1 defeat of regional rivals
50,802 fans braved a chilly afternoon at Saitama Stadium, and
the home fans were rewarded with coach Volker Finke's maiden J.
Former Bundesliga star Robson Ponte was in irresistible form,
setting up the first two for Yuki Abe and Edmilson respectively,
before adding a late third himself - after the capital club had
equalised in the first half through a Keisuke Tsuboi own goal.
Vissel Kobe pulled off a surprise 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale,
with lesser lights Daisuke Sudo and Shota Matsuhashi both getting
on the scoresheet, after new Kobe coach Caio Junior lost his Brazilian
recruits Alan Bahia and Marcel to injury during the week.
Defeat for Kawasaki marks a repeat of their disastrous start to
the 2008 campaign, and coach Takashi Sekizuka has some serious problems
in defence, where former Japan midfielder Satoru Yamagishi looks
out of his depth as a makeshift right back.
Kashiwa Reysol and JEF United battled to a 1-1 draw in the Chiba
derby, with Tadanari Lee taking advantage of Australian defender
Eddy Bosnar's failure to cut out a dangerous cross, with Lee heading
home the opener.
JEF United equalised through veteran Masataka Sakamoto early in
the second half, but neither side showed enough to suggest that
they can battle for a top half finish this season.
Gamba Osaka cruised to the top of the standings with a 4-1 demolition
of struggling Jubilo Iwata, with Yasuhito Endo converting two penalties
in front of 16,128 fans at Expo '70 Stadium, as referee Masaaki
Iemoto took centre stage by awarding three hotly disputed spot-kicks
in the match.
Crowd concerns in J2
Meanwhile, J. League officials will be concerned with attendances
over the first two rounds of the new J2 campaign, with not a single
fixture attracting a five-figure crowd last weekend.
The largest crowd was the 9,378 turn-out at Ajinomoto Stadium in
Tokyo, as fallen giants Tokyo Verdy lost 2-1 to fellow big guns
Only two games have attracted crowds in excess of 10,000 this
season, with 21,908 turning out under the roof of the Sapporo Dome
to see Consadole Sapporo go down 1-0 to fellow northerners Vegalta
Sendai on the opening day, while 10,525 fans showed up at Fagiano
Okayama's J. League debut as they held Ventforet Kofu to a scoreless
draw in their first ever professional match.
J. League officials will hope that warmer weather attracts fans
back into J2 grounds, particularly with gate receipts likely to
prove crucial for newcomers Okayama, Kataller Toyama and Tochigi
SC - not to mention debt-laden strugglers FC Gifu.
Snow storm ends debate on re-aligning J. League calendar
The J. League announced last week that a proposal to align the
fixture list with the European calendar had been unanimously turned
down by J. League clubs.
That decision was punctuated by a snow storm that lashed Yamagata
on Saturday, as Montedio's first ever home game in the top flight
was marred by treacherous conditions.
The home side managed to hold Nagoya Grampus to a 0-0 draw in
front of 12,370 hardy fans, but it was hardly the kind of advertisement
that Motoaki Inukai was hoping for.
The newly installed Japan Football Association chief continues
to insist that playing through the winter months is a viable option.
But with northern clubs Albirex Niigata, Yamagata and Vegalta
Sendai all playing in open-air stadia - while Consadole Sapporo's
"indoor" pitch is tellingly grown outdoors - the snowy
mid-March conditions will surely end the debate over re-aligning
Meanwhile, Yokohama FC striker Kazuyoshi Miura became the oldest
goalscorer in J. League history when he converted a penalty in his
club's 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Roasso Kumamoto on Saturday.
Related J-League Links
S-Pulse v Kofu Ventforet
Soccer Stadiums Guide
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