150,000 spectators watched the J1 action at the weekend and 42,000 of them were in Osaka to see Cerezo and Gamba share four goals in a thrilling derby (report and highlights below). League leaders Kashima Antlers slipped up at home to Albirex Niigata, allowing title holders Sanfrecce Hiroshima to leapfrog them at the summit courtesy of their single goal victory over struggling FC Tokyo.
Vissel Kobe continued their excellent form, defeating whipping boys Tokushima Vortis to move up to third in the league, while Vegalta Sendai concluded a tumultuous week – during which they parted ways with Australian coach Graham Arnold – with victory at the Nissan Stadium over a disappointing Yokohama F Marinos. J1 current top scorer and Japan international Yohei Toyoda reinforced his credentials for a seat on the plane to Brazil, scoring his sixth of the season in Sagan Tosu’s 2-0 win over lowly Ventforet Kofu.
Milivoje Novakovic scored for Shimizu S-Pulse as they defeated his former employers Omiya Ardija and Urawa Reds left it late to claim victory over Nagoya Grampus, moving up to fourth in the table in the process. In the weekends Friday night game, Kawasaki Frontale drew 1-1 with Kashiwa Reysol in an entertaining encounter at the Todoroki Stadium.
Anything Diego can do, Abe can do better
Cerezo Osaka 2-2 Gamba Osaka – Report
Diego Forlan and Hiroyuke Abe scored a brace each in an action packed match at the Yanmar stadium which swung back and forth throughout the ninety minutes.
The home team started brightly and within sixty seconds Yoichiro Kakitani had stung the palms of Gamba goalkeeper Higashiguchi with a fierce left footed drive. From the resultant corner, Yamaguchi demonstrated superb technique to fire a volley goalwards but again Higashiguchi was up to the task.
Gamba settled and began to impose themselves on proceedings with Endo seeing plenty of the ball in his advanced position in midfield. Cerezo defender Yamshita had to look lively to divert a cross away for a corner after good work from Omori and Brazilian frontman Lins on the right hand side.
However, it was Uruguayan superstar Forlan who opened the scoring for Cerezo in the 19th minute. The ex Man United, Villareal and Atletico Madrid striker started a move deep in his own half and linked well with Yamaguchi and Kakitani, before stabbing the ball into the net from just inside the box.
Despite going behind, Gamba continued to move the ball around with purpose and though Cerezo looked threatening on the counter, it was the 2005 champions who controlled possession and territory, pressing for an equaliser which duly arrived just before half time.
The goal came from a set play; Yamaguchi fortunate to escape serious censure for a straight leg tackle. When goalkeeper Kim flapped at Endo’s delivery, Abe was on hand to drill a superb left foot shot high into the net.
The visitors began the second half as they finished the first despite having lost the services of international defender Konno to injury. They took the lead in the 52nd minute when Abe demonstrated strength and composure to retain possession under pressure, before despatching a magnificent curling strike beyond Kim from 25 yards.
The lead lasted only three minutes though as Forlan stepped up to convert a free kick after Gamba defender Niwa had handled the ball on the edge of the area. The goal seemed to bring Cerezo to life and Hasegawa and Sakemoto, who had previously been anonymous, began to exert some influence on the game, while prodigous youngster Minamino continued to pester the home defence.
In Endo, Lins and Abe, Gamba Osaka had three outstanding performers of their own but it was substitute Takahiro Futagawa who came closest to scoring the winner in injury time, but goalkeeper Takeda – who had replaced the blundering Kim in the second half – tipped his goalbound effort over the crossbar, ensuring a fantastic spectacle ended all square.
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Yokohama F Marinos 0-2 Vegalta Sendai
Kashima Antlers 1-2 Albirex Niigata
Nagoya Grampus 1-2 Urawa Reds
Shimizu S-Pulse 2-0 Omiya Ardija
Vissel Kobe 3-0 Tokushima Vortis
Sagan Tosu 2-0 Ventforet Kofu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 FC Tokyo
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