ROUND 15 / WEDNESDAY 10th JULY
Omiya extend lead at the top to five points
Omiya Ardija kept their cool on a hot and humid evening in Japan to remain in pole position in the title race. As temperatures soared across the country, the squirrels moved five points clear of Urawa Reds with a 2-1 victory over Nagoya Grampus. The leaders fell behind after only seven minutes whenTakahashi gifted possession to Naoshi Nakamura, who chipped into the Omiya net from twenty five yards. However the home side exhibited the resilience they will require to go the distance this year, scoring twice in three second half minutes, with both goals created by Takuya Aoki. The midfielder’s vision and awareness set up Novakovic for the equaliser before unlocking the visitors backline with a slide rule pass for Hasegawa, who secured the win with a fine left footed strike across the goalkeeper. The three points came at a cost though as Novakovic damaged his ankle and is likely to be out of action for four weeks.
Tokyo blues as Reds steal a point
Over at the Saitama stadium, Korochi and Haraguchi salvaged a late point for Urawa Reds in a 2-2 draw with FC Tokyo. The visitors, who were resolute and composed at the back and purposeful going forward, took the lead in the first half with a deflected strike from Mita. Aria Hasegawa doubled their advantage on 55 minutes as he checked inside the Reds defence to rifle into the net, following a quick interchange with Watanabe. With the home side lacking in intensity and surrendering possession repeatedly, Tokyo should have added to their lead and were left to rue missed chances when their advantage was eroded in the final ten minutes. While the overall performance will be a concern for Petrovic and his coaching team, the draw means Urawa remain in second place, one point ahead of Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but five behind Omiya.
Sato fires Sanfrecce back into contention
Quietly, and as if by stealth, last seasons champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima have manoeuvred themselves into contention again with a series of impressive results. Hisato Sato scored a hat trick in the 4-2 home win over in- form Kawasaki Frontale, becoming the first J League player to break the ten goal barrier in ten consecutive seasons in the process. Last week, their Croatian midfielder Mikic expressed susprise that few people were talking of Sanfrecce as contenders, with the focus firmly on Omiya, Urawa and Marinos in the title race. Now they have leapfrogged Yokohama into third place, Sanfrecce can expect a few more column inches as they prepare for the visit of Cerezo Osaka on Saturday.
The continuing emergence of Yoichiro Kakitani
Speaking of Cerezo, they extended their unbeaten run with a 2-1 home victory over a faltering Yokohama F Marinos. Unsurprisingly it was the increasingly impressive Kakitani who opened the scoring for Cerezo, finding space in the visitors defence to score his tenth of the season. Yokohama were laborious all evening and found themselves two down when Simplicio scored at the death. Brazilian Marquinhos pulled one back with an opportunistic header in injury time but it was too little too late for Marinos who have now won only one of their last four and find themselves in fourth spot, eight points adrift of Omiya, who they host at the weekend. A hugely promising start to the campaign is in danger of unravelling unless Higuchi’s men can rouse themselves soon.
Elsewhere, Naoki Sugai’s goal for Vegalta Sendai on the cusp of half time condemned Oita Trinita to another defeat, while the prolific Yohei Toyoda scored both goals in Sagan Tosu’s 2-1 victory over Ventforet Kofu to take his tally for the season to ten at the Best Amenity Stadium. Shonan Bellmare surrendered their one goal advantage over Kashiwa Reysol in the last ten minutes, with Tanaka and Kondo cancelling out Kamekawa’s opener on the hour mark. Reysol move from twelfth to tenth in the table though the notion persists that their focus remains on the Asian Champions League.
The Shizuoka neighbours experienced mixed fortunes on Wednesday as S-Pulse were beaten 3-1 away to Kashima Antlers, who remain in fifth, while Yamazaki’s injury time winner for Jubilo Iwata secured a 2-1 victory over Alibirex Niigata. That result means Niigata slip from eleventh to twelfth while Iwata leapfrog Bellmare but stay in the relegation zone.
A full fixture list on Saturday includes some intriguing matches, most notably Sanfrecce v Cerezo Osaka and Marinos v Omiya. Kawasaki will look to bounce back from yesterdays defeat with a home tie against Urawa Reds, while at the bottom, newly promoted Ventforet Kofu and Shonan Bellmare collide in a match which has a fairly significant feel to it, even at this relatively early stage of the season.
Expect the unexpected, and as ever, plenty of goals.
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