Yasuhiro Higuchi’s men ended the weekend at the top of the J1 table for the first time since April, thanks to a thoroughly professional display in front of 30,000 fans in the capital. This was FC Tokyo’s first defeat in seven matches and while they created some opportunities, manager Ranko Popovic was left to bemoan what he described as a lack of courage in the final third.

It was the industrious Shingo Hyodo who opened the scoring for the visitors just after the half hour mark. Collecting Nakamura’s threaded pass on the edge of the box, he played a neat one-two with Jin Hanato before guiding a low finish into the far corner of the net. Brazilian Marquinhos then failed to convert Kobayashi’s cross from four yards out, meaning F Marinos held only a slender advantage until the dying moments of the match. For the second week in succession, it was a piece of sublime skill from Shunsuke Nakamura which sealed victory, prompting some observers to wonder aloud about the possibility of a recall to the Samurai Blue. Advancing on the Tokyo backline, the ex Celtic midfielder performed a double stepover, a feint and a drag back before despatching a strike laced with venom, high into the roof of the net. The savage artistry of Nakamura, ably assisted by midfield lieutenants Tomisawa and Nakamachi continues to propel Yokohama forward. With Saito, Hyodo and Marquinhos providing important contributions and Yuji Nakazawa leading the backline, few would now bet against a first title triumph since 2004 for one of the oldest squads in the J League.


Oita Trinita remain anchored to the foot of the table with only one win all season after surrendering a three goal advantage to Urawa Reds at the Saitama Stadium. The visitors cracked in three goals in eight first half minutes to fashion what appeared to be an unassailable lead by the twentieth minute of the match. Kajiyama outjumped the Reds defenders to head home a free kick for the opener before Wakasa ghosted into the six yard box unmarked to drill home a corner. Oita took full advantage of Urawa’s defensive narcolepsy when Matsuda’s forceful header made it three just a few moments later. It was an incredible start to the match.

However, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Urawa Reds, and the J League in general was demonstrated in a remarkable turnaround, which began before half time with Koroki’s close range finish. Two minutes after the restart Marcio Richardes thundered a 30 yard free kick into the net and Abe calmly converted a penalty ten minutes later. Finally, with time running out, Daisuke Nasu glanced Moriwaki’s right wing cross into the net and earned the home side victory, sending 32,000 fans into raptures. In the aftermath, Urawa Reds stay third in the league, four points off the pace. Oita’s spirited first half performance was undermined by old failings and inevitably, the trapdoor to J2 beckons.


A season of wildly inconsistent, but promising displays may be in danger of lapsing into bland mediocrity for Shimizu S-Pulse, as they continue to inhabit the lower reaches of the table following a comprehensive beating from Cerezo Osaka. Despite a fairly enterprising start, in which Radoncic might have opened the scoring for the visitors with a header from a free kick, the general narrative of this match can be encapsulated in the comfortable dominance displayed by Lever Culpi’s men, who now sit in a lofty 4th place in the overall standings.

S-Pulse defender Calvin Jong-a-Pin bundled over Cerezo forward Edno in the 23rd minute and was left to observe the consequence of his folly when the Brazilian dusted himself down and emphatically buried the resultant penalty kick. The same player doubled the advantage after the break, applying the faintest of touches to a free kick from the left flank. Yasuhiro Hiruoka gave the visitors some hope with fifteen minutes to go, scoring a near post header from a corner kick. However, the prodigous Yoichiro Kakitani promptly extinguished the visitors hopes with a fine finish from Simplicio’s forward pass. It was the 23 year olds 13th goal of the season.

Edamura gave the scoreline some extra lustre with a fourth goal in injury time, completing an excellent passing move. Only eight points off top spot, Cerezo Osaka will now hope to continue their run of good form in order to transform a good season into a great one, while Afshin Ghotbi will be ever more mindful of the decreasing points advantage his S-Pulse team retain over the bottom three.


Yohei Toyoda capitalised on an error from Tomoki Imai to claim a valuable three points for Sagan Tosu with fifteen minutes remaining of a tight encounter at the Best Amenity Stadium. The Japanese international, who now has 14 goals for the season, swept the ball into the far corner of the net after Imai had failed to intercept a throw in down the line. Despite reservations over perceived technical limitations, Toyoda continues to advance his case for permanent inclusion in Zaccheroni’s squad and were the World Cup to start tomorrow, he would undoubtedly be involved. The visitors – led by caretaker manager Takeyuki Okamoto after the sacking of Slovenian coach Verdenik – took the lead through the impressive Korean forward Cho but were pegged back when Kei Ikeda latched on to a knock down from a deep free kick just before the hour mark. Toyoda’s strike means Omiya have now lost six consecutive matches and must hope the weekend signing of Australia captain Lucas Neill will bring some much needed stability to an increasingly fragile unit.


Title holders Sanfrecce relinquished two vital points with an injury time concession against 2010 champions Nagoya Grampus. Croatian midfielder Mihael Mikic looked to have won the match for the hosts with a 77th minute goal but ex Japan international Marcus Tulio Tanaka salvaged a point with a goal in the dying embers of the match. Nagoya, who had rocketed up the table with five straight victories after a disappointing opening half of the campaign, remain in ninth place.


Kawasaki Frontale -, and Yoshito Okubo in particular – just can’t stop scoring goals. The prolific striker scored his fifteenth and sixteenth of the campaign on Saturday, with fellow thirty-something Kengo Nakamura also finding the net in the space of thirteen second half minutes, cancelling out Kashiwa’s first half opener for the home side. In the aftermath of a feisty encounter with seven yellow cards, Frontale are seventh in the league table while Ventforet Kofu, who are the league’s lowest scorers with only seventeen goals from twenty one outings, remain perilously close to the drop zone in 15th position.

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20130820 - J-League

Chris Collins

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