Urawa Reds have maintained their four point lead over Gamba Osaka, following their 2-1 away win at Vissel Kobe in midweek Round 23 action.
Recently recalled Japan international Tatsuya Tanaka scored twice to take his tally to seven goals in ten matches, with Keisuke Kurihara scoring a late consolation for Kobe.
Gamba Osaka kept up the chase by hammering third placed Kashima Antlers 5-1. Gamba were missing Brazilian striker Magno Alves through injury, so Ryuji Bando partnered Bare up front, and both scored a brace, with Yasuhito Endo also getting on the scoresheet.
Any illusions third placed Kashima had of splitting the Urawa-Gamba axis at the top of the table were ruthlessly shattered, as Gamba hammered the most successful team in J-League history with maximum efficiency.
Shimizu S-Pulse beat Yokohama FC 1-0 thanks to a late Cho Jae-Jin strike, while local rivals Jubilo Iwata were the latest victims of the Yokohama F. Marinos juggernaut, losing 4-1 despite taking the lead at Mitsuzawa Stadium.
JEF United thrashed Oita Trinita 6-0 – scoring four goals in the last seven minutes of the match, whilst FC Tokyo scored three in the final three minutes to overwhelm Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-0 in Hiroshima.
The results mean that Urawa still lead the way from Gamba Osaka, Poker Online, with Kashima in third and Shimizu S-Pulse hot on their heels in fourth.
At the other end of the table things look hopeless for last placed Yokohama FC.
Second-from-bottom Omiya Ardija are yet to record a victory under new coach Satoru Sakuma, and they desperately need to take something from the Saitama derby against cross-town rivals Urawa Reds in Round 24. The first encounter between these two teams produced a 1-1 draw at a rain-soaked Saitama earlier in the season, and Omiya – who are missing injured goalkeeper Hiroki Aratani, would arguably settle for a point against their table topping local rivals.
Meanwhile Jubilo Iwata host Shimizu S-Pulse at Ecopa Stadium, seeking revenge for a 2-1 loss to their local rivals earlier in the season. That match was played amidst a white-hot atmosphere at Nihondaira Stadium, and with Jubilo experiencing mixed results since the J-League resumed after the summer break, the pressure will be on coach Adilson to achieve a positive result in this season’s second installment of the Shizuoka derby.
In J2 Consadole Sapporo lead the way and look almost certain to achieve promotion, with Kyoto Sanga FC occupying second place. Vegalta Sendai, Avispa Fukuoka and Shonan Bellmare round out the top five.
Yokohama FC sack coach Takuya Takagi
Yokohama FC announced the sacking of coach Takuya Takagi on August 27, bringing in highly experienced Brazilian coach Julio Leal as his replacement.
Leal has his work cut out for him if Yokohama FC are to miraculously avoid the drop, with the port city minnows some six points behind second-from-bottom Omiya Ardija.
Japan National Team
A new look Japan beat Cameroon 2-0 in a friendly at the Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita on August 22, thanks to goals from Urawa defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Koji Yamase.
Defender Tulio opened the scoring with a firm header, however it took a late strike from midfield maestro Yamase to wrap up proceedings.
Urawa striker Tatsuya Tanaka and Vissel Kobe man Yoshito Okubo both received international recalls, and they looked Japan’s most effective players going forward, although a spate of second half substitutions curtailed Japan’s attacking instinct.
Japan Olympic Team
Japan limped to a 1-0 win over Vietnam after a tepid display in the opening game of the final qualifying round for the Beijing Olympics.
Shimizu S-Pulse defender Naoki Aoyama scored the only goal of the game just before the half-time break, as Japan missed countless opportunities to extend their lead against an overwhelmed Vietnamese side.
Japan’s next match is against Saudi Arabia on September 8, with only the group winner progressing to the Olympic tournament in 2008.
Japanese Players Overseas
Shunsuke Nakamura : Celtic
Last year’s Scottish Player Of The Season has started three of Celtic’s four league fixtures and both of their UEFA Champions League qualifying fixtures so far, scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Hearts. The Glasgow club have been drawn against holders AC Milan, Portugese giants Benfica and Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donestk in the Champions League group stage, in which Nakamura is expected to play a pivotal role.
Daisuke Matsui : Le Mans
With conjecture suggesting that Daisuke Matsui would leave Le Mans over the summer brushed aside, the diminutive midfielder has had an excellent start to the season. He has started every game for Le Mans this season, and scored the opening goal in the club’s 3-1 loss to Monaco.
Takayuki Morimoto : Catania
The Italian Serie A season kicked off on August 25 and Takuyuki Morimoto opened his campaign in spectacular style, curling home the opening goal of Catania’s 2-2 draw with Parma.
Koji Nakata : FC Basel
Koji Nakata was another player expected to leave his club over the summer, however the defensive midfielder has stayed on at FC Basel and started in every league game so far. He has also been active in the UEFA Cup qualifying round, where his team booked their place in the first round proper with a comprehensive victory over Austrian outfit SV Mattersburg.
Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and Alex : Salzburg
Ex-Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and former Urawa Reds wing-back Alex have featured regularly for Salzburg this season. Both started the club’s most recent 1-0 league loss away at Rapid Vienna, however Alex was absent from the team that was knocked out in UEFA Champions League qualifying by Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.