JAPAN: J-LEAGUE – ROUND 20 REPORT

Japan

ROUND 20

大宮アルディージャ戦で2ゴール1アシストと活躍した柿谷曜一朗。

Verdenik sacking overshadows brilliant Kakitani (Omiya Ardija 0-3 Cerezo Osaka)

Omiya Ardija’s bewildering decision to relieve coach Zdenko Verdenik of his duties in the aftermath of this defeat at the NACK5 stadium stole the headlines away from the increasingly impressive Yoichiro Kakitani (pictured above), whose double helped fire Cerezo Osaka into fifth place in J1. It was another disappointing showing from Omiya and their fifth consecutive defeat, but the dismissal of their record breaking Slovenian coach, while still only six points off the top spot and with several key players returning from injury, appears at first glance, a panic measure borne of misguided short term-ism. The Squirrels official statement hinted that Verdenik had lost the trust of his players and also alleged a lack of responsivity to his tactics, but if any J1 manager has earned his clubs backing then surely it is Verdenik, who took Omiya Ardija on a twenty three game unbeaten run which spilled over from the previous season into the current campaign. Seasoned J League observers suggest a significant back story to the decision may unravel in the coming weeks.

As for the game itself, Kakitani opened the scoring in the third minute converting a loose ball from close range. The goal had a hint of controversy as Minamino was in an offside position as the move progressed but deemed not to be affecting play. Cerezo’s supremacy would not be seriously challenged in the ensuing 87 minutes. Brazilian forward Edno foraged productively on the right hand side, ever eager to cut into to his favoured left foot to shoot or link up with Kakitani. Just as Omiya finally began to gain some territory and possession they were undone on the counter in the 24th minute. Simplicio lacerated the home defence with a fine through ball which Kakitani latched onto expertly. His first touch took him away from the chasing defenders, Imai and Takahashi, and he dispatched his twelfth goal of the season with the characteristic sense of calm which is fast becoming his most notable attribute.

The second half was a more even contest and Omiya forced a succession of corners, the majority of which came to nothing due to a series of infringments. Zlatan Ljubijankic played a neat one two with Shimohira and when the midfielders goal bound shot was blocked, Omiya protested in vain for hand ball. Watanabe peppered the away teams goal with long range efforts as Lever Culpi’s side conceded possession and maintained their shape and structure in order to protect their two goal advantage. Kakitani, then provided an assist the third, leaving Kikuchi with twisted blood as he skipped to the by line and centred for Edno, who squared for Simplicio to finish. The visitors were assured and impressive throughout and merited their victory. In Kakitani, they have an emerging star whose healthy self regard is all in proportion to his skill, intelligence and movement. Without wishing to lapse into hyperbole, he is comprehensively brilliant in almost every aspect of forward play and is surely now a certainty for the 2014 World Cup squad.

As for the hosts, their insipid acceptance of defeat was bound to generate questions, but a dismissal? Verdenik had integrated a number of moderately skilled individuals and formed a powerful unit, greater than the sum of their parts. Their recent run has of course, been woeful, but any level headed analysis will uncover some obvious mitigating circumstances. It is hard to conceive of his predecessor doing a more worthy job.

Evergreen duo carve out narrow victory (Yokohama F Marinos 2-1 Sagan Tosu)

Shunsuke Nakamura is a marvel of modern football. While perhaps not possessing the physical attributes to reach the very summit of the global game, he remains, at 35 years of age, an absolute joy to behold. Incredibly perceptive and highly skilled, Nakamura has a presence of mind absent in the majority of players and displayed his awareness again at the weekend, playing a neat one two with Nakamachi before ghosting into the box to flick a header into the visitors net. It was, apparently, his first headed goal in twelve years, but when you possess a left foot which could open a tin of beans, there is rarely any reason to utilise the nodding apparatus.

Thereafter Sagan Tosu set about F Marinos with characteristic physicality and it was no surprise when their equaliser came from a set piece, Hayasaka finishing smartly after a corner had been volleyed on to the bar by the rumbustious centre forward Yohei Toyoda, who threatened throughout. At times, the robust nature of Tosu’s challenges overstepped the legitimate boundaries of sport and observers with a purist disposition will not have been upset to see Yokohama claim victory with a goal of unquestionable brilliance from Marquinhos. The Brazilian marksmen, two years senior to Nakamura, held off his marker to set up a superbly executed bicycle kick to win the game with quarter of an hour remaining. It was his 14th strike of the season and keeps the home side within a point of leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Gasmen fightback for point in Tamagawa Classico (Kawasaki Frontale 2-2 FC Tokyo)

FC Tokyo twice came from behind to keep their five game unbeaten run intact. Two of J1’s most lethal marksmen traded goals in the first half as firstly, Yoshita Okubo finished beyond Gonda after a neat one two for his fifteenth goal of the season, before Kazuma Watanabe controlled a cross on his midriff and bundled into the net to equalise. The Tokyo frontman is one behind Okubo at the top of the scoring charts having registered fourteen times. Immediately after the restart, the evergreen Kengo Nakamura tapped in from four yards to re-establish the lead for Frontale, who despite occupying mid table, are the league’s highest scorers. The flip side however, is their porous backline; only Sagan Tosu have conceded more. However, the goal of the game owed nothing to defensive frailties and came from FC Tokyo’s Kosuke Ota, whose swerving 30 yard free kick levelled the match. It was a strike of exceptional quality. Unfortunately for coach Ranko Popovic, results elsewhere meant his team slipped from 6th to 7th in the table. Kawasaki Frontale drop from 8th to 10th.

Radoncic sets S-Pulse on path to victory (Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Shonan Bellmare)

Two early strikes from Montenegro forward Dzenan Radoncic, on loan from Suwon Bluewings in Korea, sent Asfin Ghotbi’s young charges en route to a much needed victory against Shonan Bellmare, who remain in the relegation places. With two draws and a defeat in their last three matches, S-Pulse had fallen to 13th position, but Radoncic settled any early nerves converting a cross from the right flank in the eighth minute. Half an hour later he got on the end of another centre, this time from the left wing and his finish made it 2-0 at half time. Kikuchi pulled one back for Bellmare with a fine left footed strike but Murata removed any possibility of a comeback, passing right footed into the net with only a few minutes remaining before celebrating on the touchline with his coach.

Late Heberty header maintains Sendai momentum (Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Kashima Antlers)

Vegalta Sendai registered their third win in a row at the Yurtec stadium in front of nearly 18,000 spectators. Atsutaka Nakamura had put the away side ahead in 23 minutes, converting a right wing cross, and they remained in command until shortly after the interval, when Yanagisawa headed home at the back post to equalise. With only ten minutes remaining Heberty strained his neck muscles to connect with Hayato Sasaki’s cross and ensure the three points stayed in Sendai.

Fierce late drive keeps Hiroshima on top (Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 Jubilo Iwata)

Last seasons top scorer, and J1 MVP Histato Sato, made full use of his predatory instincts to convert Takahagi’s mishit shot in the 42nd minute for his 14th goal of the current campaign. Jubilo Iwata restored parity with twenty minutes remaining when Kanazono headed in a cross from the right. Korean defender Seok Ho Hwang earned Sanfrecce their 13th victory of the season, cutting in from the left a dispatching a blistering drive into the bottom corner of the net to keep the Hiroshima side at the summit of J1. The visitors remain mired in relegation trouble having recorded only two victories from twenty matches.

Five wins on the spin for home side (Nagoya Grampus 2-0 Urawa Reds)

Nagoya’s superb run of form continued at the weekend in front of 30,000 spectators, as goals from Tamada and Australian Josh Kennedy, ensured their impressive winning sequence was maintained. Dragan Stojkovic’s men now occupy ninth place in J1 having been as low as 14th in May. The eternal inconsistency of Urawa Reds must be torturing their coach Mihailo Petrovic as their inability to follow up on fine victories threatens to fatally undermine their championship challenge. Having beaten Sanfrecce Hiroshima last week they have immediately lost ground and sit five points off the pace in third position.

OTHER RESULTS

Venforet Kofu 1-1 Albirex Niigata

Oita Trinita 0-0 Kashiwa Reysol

STANDINGS

20130813 - J-League

Chris Collins

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