Japanese Soccer News - December 2009
Michael Tuckerman reports
J.League | J.League
Betting Tips | Japanese
Kashima Antlers Champions
Kashima Antlers were crowned J. League champions for the third
successive season, after the Ibaraki side beat arch-rivals Urawa
Reds on the final day in front of 53,783 fans at a rain-soaked Saitama
Shinzo Koroki was the hero for the visitors, scoring midway through
the second half to seal a record seventh J. League title for the
Kawasaki Frontale finished second, with their 3-2 win away at
relegated Kashiwa Reysol not enough to see the Kanagawa side claim
a first ever piece of silverware.
Gamba Osaka will joined Kashima and Kawasaki in the 2010 AFC Champions
League, after the Osakans finished third – some six points
behind champions Kashima.
The trio will be joined in the Champions League by the winner
of the season-ending Emperor's Cup, while Kashiwa Reysol, JEF United
and Oita Trinita made the drop into J2.
They will be replaced by Vegalta Sendai, Cerezo Osaka and Shonan
Bellmare, who all return to the top flight following long spells
in the second tier.
Kashima midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara was named the J. League’s
Player Of The Year, with the mercurial playmaker instrumental in
Kashima’s record-breaking season, which saw the Ibaraki outfit
become the first team in the professional era to win the league
championship three years in a row.
When the dust had settled on another gripping J. League title race,
many wondered whether anyone could stop Kashima Antlers after they
picked up their third straight Japanese crown.
They got an answer - of sorts - after Gamba Osaka dumped the Antlers
out of the season-ending Emperor's Cup at the quarter-final stage.
Gamba's belated victory came courtesy of a brace from ex-Oita
Trinita striker Masato Yamazaki, who scored either side of a goal
from Kashima front man Yuzo Tashiro.
The Osakans march on to a semi-final showdown with promoted side
Vegalta Sendai, who shook off any ill-affects from their recent
J2 title celebrations to beat a star-studded Kawasaki Frontale.
In front of a packed house of 18,340 fans at Yurtec Stadium in
Sendai, the hosts prevailed thanks to a 2-1 extra-time victory.
Yuki Nakashima opened the scoring for the hosts, and Vegalta looked
to be cruising to a place in the final four until Kazuhiro Murakami
drove home a stoppage-time equaliser.
There was to be no monumental fightback from Frontale, however,
as Vegalta striker Tomoyuki Hirase scored a late winner to seal
Sendai's place in the semi-finals.
The other semi-final will be contested by Tokai rivals Shimizu
S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus, although both sides experienced contrasting
fortunes in their quarter-final matches.
Shimizu required a dramatic extra-time winner from veteran defender
Arata Kodama to seal a 3-2 win over a plucky Albirex Niigata, with
Kodama's goal coming just a minute from full-time.
Meanwhile, Nagoya cruised past cash-strapped local rivals FC Gifu
courtesy of a 3-0 win in front of 12,211 fans at Mizuho Stadium,
with Australian international Josh Kennedy scoring a hat-trick.
The win sets up an intriguing final four clash with regional rivals
Shimizu S-Pulse on December 29, with Shimizu set to enjoy the lion's
share of support as the two sides run out at Ecopa Stadium.
The other semi-final will take place at the National Stadium in
Tokyo, as the four remaining Emperor's Cup combatants fight for
their place in a New Year's Day showdown.
S-Pulse v Kofu Ventforet
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