Guess who has finally returned? Yes, it is me, the one who you have demanding back on Twitter over the past ten days. I have even received a few phone calls from my fans asking for me to return so I finally decided to return to writing about the best league in Asia, the J-League as my last piece was nearly two weeks ago (Hiroshima’s Invincibility Lost, Kiyotake Bags A Brace And Podolski Goes Quiet).
Seriously though, as most of what I have just seen was complete rubbish, I had a few family issues and, even though I didn’t want to, these had to come over writing about the J-League. Don’t worry, I have been keeping up with the J-League, God that reminds me of a reality TV show, and have noticed that Hiroshima have kept the gap at ten points at the top of the table and it looks like Nagoya should give up already and accept relegation.
Funnily enough, my return lines up with some apparent big transfer rumour in the J-League, specifically Vissel Kobe, as Podolski and Co. are looking to add a Spanish bloke called Andres Iniesta… Anyone heard of him? Should he be even touching the same pitch as Podolski?
Anyway, onto something that has happened and that’s the weekend’s action in the J-League. League leaders Hiroshima faced a not so easy game against Vegalta, Tokyo faced Hokkaido on Sunday and there was a battle at the bottom between Gamba Osaka and Yokohama which didn’t disappoint. Right, shall we finally get into the action?
Game 1: Jubilo Iwata 0-2 Vissel Kobe
It seems we are starting with Podolski and Co. as they took on a very good side in Jubilo Iwata. Kobe were coming off a 2-0 loss to Hiroshima whilst Iwata were in better form after beating Kashiwa 2-1. If this Iniesta bloke is joining Kobe and he needs persuading then Kobe didn’t disappoint during this game.
This game was a game of one half and thankfully that was the first half. Kobe dominated the early proceedings and they were rewarded with a goal on eleven minutes, with Kazuma Watanabe finding the back of the net. Iwata weren’t urgent to get back into the game and that allowed Kobe to double their lead on twenty-five minutes. This time Shuhei Otsuki set up Wellington and this killed the game off.
Kobe would hold onto the 2-0 lead going into halftime and then they would hold onto the lead until full time thanks to Iwata really not trying to get back into the game. Kobe are now 7th in the league, two points behind Iwata who sit 6th.
Game 2: Shimizu S-Pulse 4-2 Shonan Bellmare
When I was looking over the fixtures before the weekend this was the game I had down as a boring 0-0, Shonan are struggling at the bottom of the league, whilst Shimizu are barely competing in mid-table. Both teams were coming off heavy losses the game before so it was the game I was definitely not watching. Oh, how I was wrong!
Surprisingly the first half was the worst of the two halves and it had two goals in it. You could tell Shimizu were the better placed of the sides as they had a little bit more composure about their play. That being said Shonan’s defending was just straight awful. Shonan gave away the first penalty on twenty-three minutes, with Koya Kitagawa converting the spot-kick and putting Shimizu 1-0 up. Shonan’s awful defending would shine through again when they gave away a second penalty on forty minutes. This time Crislan converted to put Shimizu 2-0 up at halftime.
Now, you are 2-0 down at halftime and performing at a horrid level of quality, surely you would come out for the second half pumped up and ready to get back into the game? Well, Shonan didn’t do that as they conceded a third on fifty-two minutes when Crislan set up Koya Kitagawa for his second of the match. Shimizu didn’t stop there as they added a fourth goal two minutes later, this time Crislan set up Shota Kaneko to put Shimizu 4-0 up.
After a couple of substitutes, Shonan managed to get one back on sixty-six minutes after Shunsuke Kikuchi found the net. Shonan were handed a tiny bit of hope when Ko Matsubara was given his marching orders, reducing Shimizu to ten men. However, Shonan could only score their second goal on ninety-four minutes, giving Shimizu a 4-2 win, moving them to 9th in the table, whilst Shonan just stay out of the bottom three.
Game 3: V-Varen Nagasaki 3-0 Nagoya Grampus Eight
This game was on my list of ones to watch as I had a feeling Nagasaki were going to get a few goals against the struggling Nagoya. Nagoya were promoted to the J-League last season, so there weren’t any big expectations around them for this season, however, they didn’t expect to be bottom of the table with relegation looking like a real threat this early on.
Nagoya started horrendously and Nagasaki capitalised on this to give themselves a 1-0 lead within three minutes with Keita Nakamura scoring thanks to a Juanma Delgado assist. That was about it for the first half, however, Nagoya should have been down three or four goals.
The second half started and it went exactly how everyone was expecting, Nagoya were looking to hold on for dear life and keep the score at 1-0, Nagasaki wanted blood and they got a second taste when they scored again on forty-nine minutes through Keita Nakamura and once again it was Juanma Delgado assisting him. Nagoya just looked done when that second goal in and they just let Nagasaki control the game. Nagasaki got a third when Musashi Suzuki scored on seventy-six minutes to round off a great day for Nagasaki and another day to forget for Nagoya.
Game 4: Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Kawasaki Frontale
This was an intriguing game heading into the weekend as Kawasaki are a good side, however, they have fallen off a little heading into the game, losing their past two games, most recently a 2-0 loss to FC Tokyo. Kashiwa have been sitting in mid-table for quite some time, failing to get some real form underneath them. Unfortunately for them, Kawasaki bounced back from their slump.
The first half was all Kashiwa and it seemed that Kawasaki were going to perform the way they have been for the past two games. Kashiwa dominated the whole half and they were finally rewarded on thirty-two minutes when Junya Ito scored. The first half ended with Kashiwa holding onto a 1-0 lead, however, Kawasaki awakened in the second half.
After a blistering start to the second half, Kawasaki found themselves on level terms thanks to a Yu Kobayashi goal on fifty-eight minutes. The rest of the second half was just quality open football, with both teams trying to sneak the win. In the end, it was Kawasaki who stole the win when Yuto Suzuki scored on ninety-two minutes to give Kawasaki their first win in three games.
Game 5: Vegalta Sendai 1-3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Hiroshima have only lost once this season and I expected them to crumble from that point, however, they have managed to hold on to the top spot. Vegalta have been very inconsistent this season and they were once again well beaten on the day.
Vegalta were the ones who made a great start to the game and they scored a goal early on, specifically on twelve minutes when Hiroaki Okuno turned the ball home. Their lead almost lasted until halftime but Hiroshima got one back thanks to ever-consistent striker Patric. The first half ended 1-1 and the game was fairly open.
The second half was much better for Hiroshima as they took the lead for the first time in the game on seventy-one minutes when Yoshifumi Kashiwa found the back of the net. Vegalta threw everything at Hiroshima to try and salvage a point from the game, however, this opened them up at the back and Hiroshima finished the game off when Patric scored his second goal on eighty-nine minutes. The win keeps Hiroshima at the top and ten points clear of second-placed Tokyo.
Game 6: Yokohama F. Marinos 1-1 Gamba Osaka
This game was a battle at the bottom of the table with Gamba being the ones who needed the points more than Yokohama. Gamba’s last outing was against Hokkaido where they lost 2-0 and Yokohama’s last outing was a 1-1 draw against bottom side Nagoya. Neither team left with all three points but they at least got points.
The first half of football was atrocious and proved that both teams are two of the worst teams that the J-League have to offer. Thankfully, both teams decided to pull their fingers out and actually score a goal. Gamba struck first thanks to a Jungo Fujimoto goal on fifty-two minutes. However, their lead lasted nine minutes when Jun Amano equalised on sixty-one minutes. The game ended 1-1 and didn’t help either side whatsoever.
Sunday Games: Urawa Red Diamonds 0-0 Sagan Tosu / FC Tokyo 0-0 Hokkaido
As you can see I have formatted these two games differently, this is because both games were a waste of time as they both ended up 0-0 draws. They weren’t even entertaining 0-0 draws, they were the ones that seem to last the whole day watching and I genuinely tear up when I even think of trying to remember these games.
That’s all from me this time out and I can only say I absolutely love the J-League. One thing I need to make clear, actually two things. One, I know who Andres Iniesta is and I may have jumped around my room when I realised he would be pairing up with Lukas Podolski, just give Kobe the league. The second thing is, next week’s fixtures are the last before we take a summer break for the World Cup.
One final thing, if you have made it this far, then you have won the chance of learning about some other leagues in Asia, specifically the Maldives and Bhutan just by clicking the following link. Thank me later. Goals Galore in Bhutan & New Radiant Start Round Two in Emphatic Fashion in the Maldives