Forlan scores first league goal, Reds draw with S-Pulse in an empty stadium, and Frontale dismantle FC Tokyo in the Tamagawa Classico.
Kashima Antlers 0-2 Cerezo Osaka
While it is Uruguayan superstar Diego Forlan who has captured the imagination of the Japanese footballing fraternity this season and resulted in Cerezo Osaka being installed as early favourites for the league title, his new club also have a clutch of emerging players who are on the verge of a breakthrough to the national team. Two of these talents combined early in this game, Takumi Minamino feeding Kakitani, who shot tamely at the keeper.
In Aria Hasegawa, Cerezo have acquired a cultured, if inconsistent playmaker from FC Tokyo and he broke the deadlock with a fine strike from the edge of the box midway through the first half. Centre back Tatsuya Yamashita then caused some consternation as he headed off his own crossbar before Forlan passed up a glorious opportunity, dragging his shot wide from six yards with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Nearly 33,000 fans turned out at the home of Antlers, who are three times J-League champions and current league leaders, and while the majority will have been dismayed to see Forlan clinch the match in the closing minutes, there can be no disputing the quality of the goal (below). Forlan collected the ball twenty yards from goal, turning smartly and releasing Kakitani on the opposite side of the box. He played a neat one-two in the area before squaring the ball for Forlan to convert. You suspect there will be much more to come from this pairing as the season progresses
Urawa Reds 1-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
A bizarre afternoon in Saitama ended in a share of the spoils for either side, in a match played behind closed doors. J League officials took the unprecedented decision to close Reds’ ground to supporters as a result a racist banner produced by the home crowd two weeks ago, which caused considerable embarrassment to the club, and Japanese football on the whole.
Nagasawa had the ball in the net early on for the visitors but it was ruled out for offside, before Reds frontman Shingo Koroki demonstrated immaculate control to take a long ball in his stride but then blasted over. Not to be denied, it was Nagasawa who gave S-Pulse the lead, stabbing home from close range. Japanese international Genki Hariguchi claimed a point late in the second half for Mihailo Petrovic’s men who now sit in 5th place in the table.
FC Tokyo 0-4 Kawasaki Frontale
Any retelling of this encounter must make reference to the quality of Kawasaki Frontale’s creative play, but the real story to emerge from the Tamagawa Classico was the pitiful resistance offered by Massimo Ficcadenti’s men, who surrendered meekly and were booed off the pitch by their own fans.
Both teams have made poor starts to the season and while Frontale can point to their ACL commitments as mitigation for their lowly league placing early in the campaign, Tokyo have no excuses. Throughout this match they opted to play a high defensive line, but failed completely to applying any pressure on Frontale’s ball playing midfielders, and this strategy resulted in several clear chances for the visitors. Last seasons top scorer in the J-League, Yoshito Okubo scored a brace, as did Yu Kobayashi.
Kazuma Watanabe had one clear cut chance for FC Tokyo when the match was still goalless but his shot from eight yards was blocked. Therafter, the home side displayed nothing more than an insipid acceptance that they were going to be second best on the evening, while Kawasaki Frontale zipped about the Ajinomoto turf with verve and purpose to claim a deserved and comfortable victory.
Albirex Niigata 1- Sagan Tosu
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Tokushima Vortis 0-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Nagota Grampus 2-1 Vissel Kobe
Omiya Ardija 4-0 Vegalta Sendai
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
League table courtesy of Fifa.com
Click on Chris’s name to follow him on Twitter