The J-League resumed at the weekend following the international break as twenty seven goals were spread across nine games, with late winners, big crowds and yet another surprising sequence of results. As the dust settled on matchday 25, J1 observers remain in a state of joyful befuddlement as to how the season will end. None of the top five teams registered a victory and only twelve points separate the top twelve teams with nine games to play.
YOKOHAMA F MARINOS 1-1 CEREZO OSAKA
F Marinos stay in pole position, two points clear of Urawa Reds despite dropping points to draw specialists Cerezo in a tight encounter at the Nissan Stadium. 35,000 spectators saw Yamashita open the scoring for the visitors after only ten minutes before Yokahama’s 40-year-old Brazilian full back Dutra equalised with a superb strike three minutes later. There was no further scoring between the two sides with the best defensive records in the league, and Cerezo will hope Yoichiro Kakitani can quickly rediscover his goalscoring form to boost their hopes of ACL qualification.
FC TOKYO 3-2 URAWA REDS
Tokyo established a two goal advantage at the interval courtesy of goals from Hyun-Soo Jang and Morishige but Reds’ defensive duo Makino and Nasu scored after the restart to level proceedings with half an hour remaining. Just as it appeared the match would end in a draw, Sota Hirayama took advantage of slack marking to head the winner from a deep free kick on the right flank in the final minute.Tokyo’s indifferent season has them in eighth position overall. Urawa Reds stay second behind F Marinos.
KAWASAKI FRONTALE 2-0 SANFRECCE HIROSHIMA
Despite their recent woeful form, and without a win in five matches, Sanfrecce are only four points off the lead, but this latest reversal casts further doubt on their ability to defend their 2012 title. The ever impressive Kengo Nakamura opened the scoring for Frontale, smashing the ball low into the net from an acute angle. Renato sealed the win in first half stoppage time with his tenth goal of the campaign, exchanging passes in the box with Okubo before scoring from close range. In between times Yojiro Takahagi struck a marvellous first time volley from the edge of the box and Mikic struck the bar for Sanfrecce in the second half, but the home team were always in control. Kawasaki are the league’s top scorers and move within one point of Cerezo Osaka in sixth position.
KASHIWA REYSOL 1-3 JUBILO IWATA
There has been precious little for Jubilo Iwata fans to cheer this season but the opening ten minutes of this clash at the Hitachi Stadium provided welcome respite from their relegation woes. Defender Shunya Suganuma headed home unmarked from a corner after only five minutes and experienced frontman Ryoichi Maeda doubled their advantage two minutes later, again with a header from a corner.Tanaka pulled one back, converting with his his knee for the home side, who had coach Nelsinho on the touchline after he bizarrely retracted his resignation last week. Maeda clinched all three points with a close range finish for his second of the match, giving his side the slightest glimmer of hope in their relegation struggle.
SHIMIZU S-PULSE 2-1 NAGOYA GRAMPUS
Along with Sagan Tosu, Shimizu S-Pulse are the form team in the division at the moment, claiming their third successive victory on Saturday. Striker Radoncic is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for Brazilian Bare and he cancelled out Masukawa’s opener for Grampus on the hour mark, as he swept a left foot finish into the net from a low cross. Deep into injury time, prodigal son Genki Omae sparked delirium at the Nihondaira with the winner, timing his run to perfection to head a right wing centre into the top corner of the net. Nail biting finishes and last minute drama is fast becoming the norm with Afshin Ghotbi’s unpredictables, who stay in 13th place.
VEGALTA SENDAI 6-0 OITA TRINITA
The visitors fell to their seventeenth defeat this season, passing the half century of concessions in the process as Vegalta bounced back from their shock defeat to Shonan Bellmare last time out. Kakuda struck twice for the home team for whom Ryang, Ishikawa, Yanagisawa and Wilson also appeared on the scoresheet.
ALBIREX NIIGATA 1-0 OMIYA ARDIJA
A bumper crowd of over 33,000 watched Albirex secure the three points thanks to Tanaka’s goal sixteen minutes from time in a match which summed up the steady nature of their season so far. Albirex have made their way to mid table safety thanks to an experienced and solid backline who have conceded only 33 goals this term. However striker Kawamata is at the top end of the J1 scoring charts and responsible for almost half of their goals so coach Yanagishita will be hopeful his form continues. Omiya failed to follow up their victory over league leaders Yokohama F Marinos in the last round and drop to seventh place in the table.
VENTFORET KOFU 3-0 KASHIMA ANTLERS
Antlers, seven times J League champions, were comprehensively dismantled in a first half onslaught from Kofu. Kashiwa, Sasaki and Patric found the net in the opening period as the visitors failed to make any impact on the league leaders. The win provides Venforet Kofu with valuable breathing space over Bellmare and Jubilo below them. Antlers stay fourth and missed out on the opportunity to close the gap on the leaders.
SAGAN TOSU 1-0 SHONAN BELLMARE
Sagan Tosu continued their recent fine form with a last minute victory. However Shonan Bellmare were complicit in their own downfall as Shimomura contrived to put the ball in his own net with only seconds remaining of normal time. With four wins in their last five matches, Sagan Tosu are safe in 14th spot while Bellmare face an uphill struggle to catch Ventforet Kofu who are eight points clear of the relegation zone.
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