Well, I certainly haven’t recovered from the weekend games in the J-League, I hope you have managed to settle yourselves down and enjoy the midweek games which I will get to in a minute. Unfortunately, I can only watch one game at a time, so I decided to treat myself to the battle at the top between undefeated Hiroshima and 2nd place Tokyo. Let’s just say I was completely shocked at what unfolded within that game. Anyway, shall we get to it?   

Game 1: Cerezo Osaka 2-1 Vegalta Sendai    

Cerezo were still licking their wounds after that shock defeat to bitter rivals Gamba Osaka in the Osaka derby, whilst Vegalta were surprised and thumped by Iwata 3-0 so both teams were looking to improve and get their top three journeys back on track.    

It wasn’t looking good for Cerezo when they conceded within the first ten minutes of the game, Koji Hachisuka was the goalscorer for Vegalta as they took an early 1-0 lead. Cerezo dominated the rest of the first half creating many half chances but nothing too serious.   

The second half started off with some quickfire football from Cerezo, it seemed Vegalta were happy to hold on to their one-goal advantage, however, that gameplan had to change quickly as Cerezo scored on fifty-one minutes thanks to Hiroshi Kiyotake. Kiyotake added his second of the game nine minutes later, giving Cerezo a 2-1 lead heading into the last half an hour. Vegalta tried their best to get an equaliser but couldn’t find the net with Cerezo coming away with the three points.    

Game 2: FC Tokyo 3-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima   

I had the absolute pleasure of watching the walls of Hiroshima crumble as they completely failed against Tokyo. Hiroshima headed into the game unbeaten in nine games, only conceding twice over the same nine games. Tokyo were second in the league, nine points behind Hiroshima and unfortunately, I tipped fellow writer Jake a Hiroshima win for his treble and it let him down completely. Anyway, shall we actually get to the action?    

Before the game, I was expecting a close affair with a couple of goals spread across the game. This didn’t happen whatsoever and Tokyo were awarded a penalty after five minutes thanks to a useless tackle in the box. Diego Oliveira slotted the spot-kick home and Tokyo took an early lead.    

I was thinking at this point that Tokyo got lucky and only scored this early on because of the penalty, oh how I was wrong! Tokyo played some brilliant football around Hiroshima’s shaky defence and a ball into the box found Kensuke Nagai who prodded home from around ten yards out, nine minutes in. Hiroshima had crumbled and looked like a side who hadn’t won a game all season.   

Tokyo decided to give Hiroshima a little bit of a break for the remainder of the first half, however, they went straight at them again in the second half, scoring a third on fifty-one minutes thanks to Diego Oliveira’s second of the match.   

Hiroshima got one back eight minutes later thanks to substitute Sho Inagaki’s strike, however, they were never coming back into the game as Tokyo completely outclassed them on the day. Hiroshima’s first defeat was an absolute crushing and Tokyo cut their lead down to six points. It’ll be interesting to see how Hiroshima will bounce back from this crushing defeat when they play third-placed Nagasaki at the weekend.   

Game 3: Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Yokohama F. Marinos    

These are two teams on completely different ends of the scale, Hokkaido are fighting to break into the top three spots whilst Yokohama are trying to escape the battle of the bottom half. Both were coming off the back of draws at the weekend and so both were looking to get the three points rather than another share.    

It seemed like Yokohama were going to take the three points for themselves when Takashi Kanai gave them the lead just before halftime, saving the first half from being a fairly boring affair. However, this just fired Hokkaido up as they equalised on forty-nine minutes through a Ken Tokura strike. Yokohama had completely collapsed in the second half and Hokkaido took advantage once again, scoring on sixty-six minutes through Ryosuke Shindo. This goal secured the three points for Hokkaido who have now climbed to fourth in the league, Yokohama are just a single point above the bottom three.   

Game 4: Jubilo Iwata 1-2 V-Varen Nagasaki   

Iwata were coming off a big win at the weekend against Vegalta so they were looking to do the same against Nagasaki who had just narrowly beat Kashiwa 1-0. Both teams were close to each other in the table so both were aiming for the same thing, just getting the three points.   

The first half was horrific, both teams were showing why they are midtable teams and struggling to reach further up the table. They were both creating chances, however, were never taking them thanks to poor finishing.    

However, something must have been woken within both teams as the second half was a fantastic half of football. Nagasaki took the lead on seventy-five minutes thanks to a strike from Daichi Tagami and they extended their lead on eighty-one minutes thanks to Juanma Delgado finding the net. There was some late drama as Iwata were awarded a penalty on ninety-four minutes, which Kengo Kawamata converted, however, the final whistle soon followed and Nagasaki took the three points. Both teams are now level on points and sit joint eighth in the league.    

Game 5: Kashima Antlers 1-1 Vissel Kobe    

The Antlers were coming off a crushing 4-1 defeat to Kawasaki at the weekend and were hoping to get their season back on track. Kobe were in good spirits after their 3-0 win against bottom side Nagoya. Podolski found himself scoring twice on that occasion so, could he replicate that performance against Kashima?   

The whole game was a really close affair with both sides having some good chances in the first half. However, it was Kobe who struck first on thirty-four minutes thanks to a Hirotaka Mita strike, he may not have scored the goal but Podolski assisted Mita fantastically.    

Both teams seemed to have a lot left in the tank in the second half and both teams were coming close to scoring, however, it was Kashima who struck this time on fifty-five minutes thanks to a Yuma Suzuki strike, making the game 1-1. After a few more chances for both teams, the game ended 1-1 and the teams shared the points.    

Game 6: Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 Urawa Red Diamonds    

Kashiwa were coming off the back of a 1-0 loss to Nagasaki which isn’t that bad of a result whilst Urawa were coming off the back of a 0-0 draw with Hokkaido, also a very solid result. Both teams were wanting the three points in this game as they look to climb up the table a little more than what they have already.    

Kashiwa seemed the better of the two teams in the first half, enjoying more chances over the opening forty-five minutes, however, they couldn’t find the net and the game ended 0-0 going into the second half.   

Kashiwa still dominated the second half, with Urawa really struggling to take the small number of chances Kashiwa allowed them. All the dominance paid off in the end as Hiroto Nakagawa scored on seventy-two minutes, giving Kashiwa the lead. Urawa never managed to get into the game and failed to score an equaliser, giving Kashiwa the three points.    

Game 7: Nagoya Grampus Eight 1-3 Shimizu S-Pulse    

Nagoya have started the season horrendously and they really needed a win against fellow strugglers Shimizu. Nagoya were coming off a crushing 3-0 defeat to Vissel Kobe whilst Shimizu had just narrowly lost 1-0 to Tokyo. Both teams desperately need the three points to try and move away from the bottom.  

The first half was a great display of why both of these teams struggled. However, this only lasted until the forty-fourth minute when Koya Kitagawa managed to find the net for Shimizu. Nagoya needed to get back into the game in the second half.   

Unfortunately, Nagoya struggled from the start of the second half and Shimizu capitalised on that, giving themselves a two-goal cushion on seventy minutes when Mitchell Duke found the net. However, Nagoya set up a dramatic last eight minutes when Willian Rocha scored on eighty-two minutes, leaving the scoreline 2-1. Unfortunately, the drama was cut short when Shota Kaneko secured the three points for Shimizu on eighty-six minutes.    

Game 8: Sagan Tosu 0-2 Kawasaki Frontale   

Sagan are looking like a club who are really struggling at the moment. They seem to be failing to pick up results and continue to fall down the table. Kawasaki, on the other hand, are playing brilliantly and are definitely in the mix of teams who are chasing down the leaders. I think everyone was expecting Kawasaki to win.   

Surprisingly it was Sagan who had the better of the first forty-five minutes as they recorded eight shots whilst holding Kawasaki to just a single shot. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to covert one and that came back to haunt them.   

The first half seemed to wake Kawasaki up for the second half as they went for the quick kill in the second half. Hiroyuki Abe opened the scoring for Kawasaki on fifty-six minutes and Sagan seemed to lower their head instantly. After another onslaught from Kawasaki, Sagan finally turned over and allowed a second on sixty-seven minutes, this time substitute Yu Kobayashi converted after an assist from the first goalscorer Abe.    

The game ended 2-0 to Kawasaki who remain third and just a single point behind Tokyo. Sagan stay third from bottom and only a single point above last place.  

Game 9: Shonan Bellmare 1-0 Gamba Osaka   

Shonan were coming off the back of a thrilling 4-4 draw with Yokohama whilst Gamba had just beaten their bitter rival Cerezo in the Osaka derby which many were shocked by. Both teams have failed to string some wins together this season, with Gamba sitting joint bottom and Shonan four points above the bottom three.    

Shonan started the game brilliantly, completely controlling the flow of the game. This paid off when Shunsuke Kikuchi scored the only goal of the game on sixteen minutes. Shonan carried on controlling the game in both halves and Gamba never really got a chance to show that quality that we saw in the Osaka derby. The result left Gamba joint bottom with Nagoya and two points from safety.   

No Invincible Season For Hiroshima  

Thankfully, the midweek games were much calmer than their weekend counterparts, however, we did see the end of Hiroshima’s unbeaten start to the season and with it their chances of going the whole season undefeated. Anyway, we have a great lineup of games for the weekend and I am sure they will be just as eventful as last weekend’s games.