First things first, I would like to welcome you to the new website and thank you for taking the time to read this, however, I am sure you have already read this multiple times on other pieces, so I will simply leave it there.
Anyway, I will be a regular writer on many of the top Asian leagues such as the ISL, the Saudi Pro League, the Qatar Stars League and of course the J-League over in Japan. If you are unfamiliar with the league over in Japan, it’s the same format as the main footballing leagues, however, we have eighteen teams competing. Three of these teams are relegated to the 2nd division and the top three qualify for the AFC Champions League. Enough about how the league works as we have a full game week to get through, strap yourselves in as this is going to be one crazy long journey.
Game 1: Shimizu S-Pulse 0-1 FC Tokyo
This is quite a special match for myself as it’s the first J-League match that I have had the pleasure of reviewing. Tokyo headed into the game hoping to reduce the lead that Hiroshima had produced up at the top of the table. Shimizu were looking to get their season going after falling down near the bottom of the table. Unfortunately for them, they were condemned to their fourth defeat of the season.
Kensuke Nagai scored the only goal of the game on fifty-nine minutes, after the first half was a fairly boring affair. Shimizu kept putting pressure on Tokyo and had seventeen shots over the course of the game, however, Tokyo had that extra bit of finishing in their locker and walked away with the three points.
Game 2: Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 Sagan Tosu
League leaders and unbeaten Hiroshima played host to a struggling Sagan Tosu side in what everyone expected to be an easy game for the home side. Hiroshima have been unbelievable all season and have only conceded twice over nine games. Tosu were looking for an upset, however, they never found it.
The game itself was fairly entertaining and Tosu didn’t play that badly, enjoying more of the ball than their opponents and having a few more shots. However, like the previous game I reported on, Hiroshima had that little extra finishing touch and Patric, who now has six goals in nine games, found the net brilliantly, on eighty-three minutes, securing the three points for Hiroshima and keeping their unbeaten record alive.
Game 3: Vegalta Sendai 0-3 Jubilo Iwata
Both teams were looking to carry on their good starts to the season with a win, interestingly Vegalta found themselves as favourites for the game, however, in the end, proved otherwise and Iwata were something special on the day.
It seems all the teams within the J-League have an agreement to make the first halves of every game completely boring, with nothing happening, even in a 3-0 win. However, Iwata finally took the lead on fifty-six minutes through Takuya Matsuura. It only took Itawa two minutes to double their lead and it was a goal I would have waited eighty-nine minutes to see. Daiki Ogawa scored the goal, running from the half-way line, through three defenders and then smashing a strike from twenty yards out into the top corner. Taishi Taguchi added a third for Itawa, late on in the game to secure the three points and move closer to the top three.
Game 4: Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 Kashima Antlers
Kawasaki were looking to try and close the gap on Hiroshima at the top of the table, whilst Kashima were looking to move further away from the bottom of the table and really kickstart their season. It’s safe to say, the favourites in this game definitely lived up to the expectation.
Kashima handed Kawasaki the lead on five minutes when defender Kento Misao sent a cross into his own net, right in front of his keeper who was going to stop the ball from causing any danger. That was all for the first half as all the action was saved for the second half.
Eduardo Neto found the net on forty-seven minutes, showing great composure when cutting inside and slotting the ball into the bottom corner, putting Kawasaki 2-0 up. After a flurry of chances for Kawasaki, Kashima found their way back into the game when Ryota Nagaki found the net on sixty-four minutes. However, for the second time in the game, Kashima gave Kawasaki a goal, this time a pass back went wrong fell perfectly for Kengo Nakamura, who slotted the ball under the keeper to make the game 3-1. Yoshito Okubo scored the fourth goal for Kawasaki and ensured the three points were going to the home side.
Game 5: Urawa Red Diamonds 0-0 Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Both teams were chasing the top sides heading into this game, with both teams needing a win to keep their heads near to the top three spots. However, both teams failed to get the three points, even though Urawa dominated the game.
Like I just said, Urawa completely dominated the game with Hokkaido struggling to get a touch of the ball in some parts of the game. Urawa did find the net in the second half, however, it was ruled out for offside and correctly so. Hokkaido’s keeper made a fantastic reflex save from a header to keep the scoreline 0-0 and save a point for Hokkaido.
It’s still a mystery to me how Urawa didn’t win that game. They had some brilliant chances and failed to convert them, hopefully, that doesn’t become a regular occurrence through their season.
Game 6: Vissel Kobe 3-0 Nagoya Grampus Eight
Vissel Kobe were looking to keep up with the top three place contenders heading into the game, whilst Nagoya were looking to move off the bottom of the table after their horrid start to the season after their promotion. It’s safe to say I was happy to see Lukas Podolski in the line-up as he is one of my all-time football legends and it’s an honour to be able to report on him.
Woo-yong Jung gave Kobe the lead after twelve minutes with a brilliant shot after a brilliant turn around the defender. The ball was sent flying into the bottom corner, giving Kobe a 1-0 lead early on. You could clearly see why Nagoya were bottom of the league as they failed to create any dangerous chances in the first half.
With the game being 1-0 at half-time, Nagoya still had a chance to get something from this game, however, the German God Lukas Podolski was having none of it. He went on to score two second-half goals, including a thunderbolt with his right foot, to give Kobe a 3-0 win, leaving Nagoya bottom of the league.
Game 7: Yokohama F. Marinos 4-4 Shonan Bellmare
Looking at this game on paper, it didn’t really excite anyone. Both teams are fighting at the bottom of the table and haven’t really produced anything this season. However, everyone was treated to a certain game of the season as it ended 4-4, with seven of the goals coming within the first forty-five minutes.
The game started with a comical own goal from Yokohama defender Yuji Nakazawa as he headed a cross straight past his own keeper to give Shonan a 1-0 lead. The lead lasted until twenty-seven minutes in as Hugo Viera placed a curling shot into the bottom corner beautifully to equalise. However, some horrendous goalkeeping from Yokohama allowed Shunsuke Kikuchi to score from around thirty-five yards out, giving Shonan a 2-1 lead. Stevanovic made it 3-1 on forty-one minutes when he slotted home from a beautiful long ball over the top. Hugo Viera wasn’t allowing Stevanovic all the limelight as he scored twice in thirty seconds to get Yokohama on level terms at 3-3. Stevanovic then stole the limelight once again as he scored just before the half-time whistle to make it 4-3 to Shonan.
The action quickly died down in the second half and I think it was a good thing it did, otherwise, I’d be in hospital with a heart-attack. Milos Degenek scored on 57 minutes to equalise and end the game with a 4-4 scoreline. What a game, I feel like I need a lie-down after that.
Game 8: Gamba Osaka 1-0 Cerezo Osaka
The weekend’s most interesting game was the meeting between the two Osaka teams in what is obviously called the Osaka derby. This was the first Japanese football derby I had witnessed and I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as the ones around the world in the bigger leagues. Gamba needed the points to get off the bottom whilst Cerezo needed the points to stay within reach of the top three. However, it was Gamba who surprised us all and took the three points.
I must say, this game was brilliant, from start to finish. It literally had everything a football derby should have, a load of crunching tackles, a great goal, a load of fights and scuffles and the best part as seeing the managers fight and nearly smack the ref in the head.
Anway, back onto what happened on the pitch and it was Ui Jo Hwang who scored the only goal in the game when he converted from the penalty spot just before half-time. For a team down the bottom of the league, Gamba seemed a very good side and played some fantastic passing football at times.
Game 9: V-Varen Nagasaki 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol
The weekend’s games concluded on Sunday when Nagasaki, who are around midtable, faced Kashiwa who are in a very similar position after the start to the season. Both teams were looking for a win to climb closer to the top of the table, rather than falling towards the bottom. However, it was Nagasaki who walked away with the three points.
The game seemed to follow a similar pattern to the Tokyo game, both teams were causing trouble throughout the game, however, failing to convert these chances efficiently. That was the case until Shu Hiramatsu scored on fifty minutes to win the game for Nagasaki and move onto the same points as their opponents.
What A Weekend!
Well, that does it for my reports of the J-League games from this weekend, I am sure everyone was just as entertained as I was this weekend with some cracking goal-filled games and that brilliant Osaka derby. Hopefully, the mid-week games are similar to these games and hopefully do not disappoint, especially the big clash at the top of the table between undefeated Hiroshima and second place Tokyo.