Matchdays 9 & 10 fell in Golden Week in Japan, the period at the end of April containing several public holidays. Over 300,000 spectators took advantage of the free time to witness 43 goals and a few surprising results. Here’s an overview….
Antlers surge to the summit
The three times J1 champions entered Golden Week on the back of two consecutive losses but waved it goodbye with a brace of wins, leaving them a point clear of Sanfrecce Hiroshima, having dismantled the defending champions 3-0 in the process. They followed up their victory over Sanfrecce at the Big Arch stadium with a 2-1 victory over an improving Shimizu S-Pulse team in Round 10 to reinforce their credentials as one of the title favourites.
Whipping boys Tokushima Vortis finally secure win
After nine defeats from their first nine matches, and having conceded 28 goals and scored only two, J1 new boys Tokushima Vortis shocked Ventforet Kofu in round 10 to claim their first points of the campaign with a 1-0 victory, Yuya Hashiuchi claiming the winning goal. Time will tell if this win will propel them on a winning sequence but the suspicion persists that they are out of their depth in the top division and despite this mini success they remain hot favourites for the drop.
Yokohama F Marinos in freefall
F-Marinos rapid descent into mediocrity this year has been painful to watch. Their failure to clinch the title last season when it was within their grasp, led many to believe it would scar their club for years to come and recent performance suggest the wounds have yet to heal. Their ageing squad is creaking at the seams and the summer reinforcement have not captured the imagination of the fans. Yasuhiro Higuchi has failed to replace the goals of Brazilian Marquinhos, who has formed a lethal front pairing with Pedro Junior at 3rd placed Vissel Kobe. Back to back, single goal defeats this week to FC Tokyo and Urawa Reds have last years runners up hovering just above the relegation zone. At this juncture in 2013, they had scored 22 goals and accumulated 20 points, this year they have scored only seven and harvested 11 points. It’s not difficult to pinpoint the problem, the key question is whether Higuchi can find a solution.
Cerezo Osaka – overpromising and under-achieving
Cerezo Osaka, heralded as title favourites in many quarters, lost further ground on the league leaders in rounds 9&10, playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Vissel Kobe before grabbing a point in injury time at home to Omiya Ardija. While Diego Forlan’s form continues to improve – he scored both goals against Vissel Kobe – there a few concerns being whispered about the performances of his strike partner Yoichiro Kakitani. The 24 year old striker has failed to recapture his blistering form of 2013, and appears to be playing in Forlans shadow rather than responding positively to his presence. Expectations were huge for Popovic’s men pre-season and though they have acquitted themselves well in the ACL, they currently 11th place in the bottom half of the table. Their fans will expect an improvement on Saturday against Nagoya Grampus.
Newly promoted Vissel Kobe continue to enjoy a superb start to the season and are two points off leaders Kashima Antlers after draws with Cerezo Osaka and Albirex Niigata. Indeed, had Kengo Kawamta not scored an injury time leveller for Niigata on Tuesday, they would top of the league themselves. Sagan Tosu’s excellent progress was halted by Sanfrecce Hiroshima in round 10 following their victory over Nagoya Grampus in their previous encounter, but with striker Yohei Toyoda in top form, they remain in 5th position in the league. Shimizu S-Pulse are also experiencing a mini revival and fans of Afshin Ghotbi’s men will be happy with their showing in the opening ten games of the season, which has left them in eighth spot in the table.
Yokohama F Marinos 0-1 FC Tokyo
Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 Urawa Reds
Tokushima Vortis 1-2 Albirex Niigata
Nagoya Grampus 2-3 Sagan Tosu
Vissel Kobe 2-2 Cerezo Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 Gamba Osaka
Omiya Ardija 0-2 Ventforet Kofu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-3 Kashima Antlers
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 Vegalta Sendai
FC Tokyo 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Ventforet Kofu 0-1 Tokushima Vortis
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Vissel Kobe
Sagan Tosu 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Reds 1-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Gamba Osaka 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Omiya Ardija
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