2005 J-League champions Gamba Osaka have opened up a four point lead at the top of the J-League table, after they plunged JEF United further into crisis with a 2-1 win at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.
Former Sagan Tosu striker Tatsunori Arai opened the scoring for JEF United with an acrobatic volley, before Gamba midfielder Tomokazu Myojin equalised midway through the second half. With a minute remaining Gamba were awarded a contentious free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, and Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo made no mistake, smashing an unstoppable drive passed Tomonori Tateishi in the United goal.
The loss means that JEF United are now entrenched in the Agen Dominoqq relegation zone, with Bosnian coach Amar Osim under intense scrutiny at the under-performing club.
51,829 fans turned out at Saitama Stadium, but home team Urawa Reds were unable to keep pace with Gamba at the top of the table, as they could only manage a 1-1 draw with visitors Yokohama F. Marinos.
Ex-Urawa midfielder Koji Yamase opened the scoring for Yokohama, before Brazilian defender Fabio Nene scored the equaliser – his second goal in as many league games.
The top five is rounded out by Kawasaki Frontale, Kashiwa Reysol and Shimizu S-Pulse but only Frontale managed to take anything from their most recent match, drawing 1-1 at home with lowly Omiya Ardija, while Kashiwa and Shimizu lost on the road to Vissel Kobe and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively.
At the foot of the J-League, Yokohama FC still prop up the standings despite a 2-1 win over Oita Trinita in their most recent match. Forty year old veteran Kazuyoshi Miuri opened the scoring against Oita, before influential midfielder Tomoya Uchida headed home a second. Shota Matsuhashi’s goal for Oita was little more than a consolation, as the Kyushu club slumped to their seventh loss in thirteen games.
Nabisco League Cup
The 2007 League Cup group stage came to a thrilling conclusion on May 23, with several clubs still in contention to join Asian Champions League participants Kawasaki Frontale and Urawa Reds in the last eight of the competition.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima topped Group A, courtesy of a 1-0 win over two-time defending champions JEF United. They were joined in the quarter-finals by Gamba Osaka, who overcame a slow start in the competition to finish as one of the two best second-placed finishers.
JEF United coach Amar Osim is now under intense pressure, after the 2005 and the 2006 champions were knocked out of this season’s competition at the group stage.
Group B was the tightest of all the League Cup groups. Amazingly, all four teams in the group finished level on eight points – while two teams scored and conceded the same number of goals.
Omiya Ardija finished bottom of a group that they had lead for the majority of the group stage, after losing 3-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse. Kashiwa Reysol hammered Yokohama F. Marinos 3-0, but neither Shimizu, nor Kashiwa benefited from their wins.
It was Yokohama F. Marinos who progressed to the quarter-finals on a tie-breaker rule, after they finished with an identical goal difference to Shimizu S-Pulse. Yokohama went through courtesy of possessing a superior head-to-head record against Shimizu, with the other three teams knocked out of the tournament.
Group C was a more straight-forward affair, with FC Tokyo booking their progression to the knock-out stages courtesy of a 2-1 away win over neighbours Yokohama FC. Jubilo Iwata beat struggling Oita Trinita 3-1 in Kyushu, but only the capital club went through to the last eight.
Group D was another tight affair, with three teams still in contention on the final match-day. Kashima Antlers won the group courtesy of a 3-0 win over Ventforet Kofu at Kose Sports Park Stadium, but the majority of the 8,844 fans in attendance were celebrating when news filtered through that Kofu had also qualified as one of the two best second-placed finishers.
Albirex Niigata were the unlucky team to miss out. They would have finished as the group runner-up, but Brazilian midfielder Marcio Richards saw his second-half penalty saved by Nagoya Grampus Eight goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, as the match finished 0-0 in front of 28,660 disappointed fans in Niigata.
The two-legged quarter-finals take place in July, and they will see Gamba Osaka take on arch-rivals Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale meet Ventforet Kofu, FC Tokyo face a grudge match with giants Yokohama F. Marinos and 2006 runner-up Kashima Antlers meet Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Asian Champions League
Urawa Reds joined Kawasaki Frontale in the last eight of the Asian Champions League, when they drew 0-0 with Sydney FC in front of 44,793 fans at Saitama Stadium.
The point was enough to see Urawa advance to the knock-out stages, although they were pushed all the way by 2005 Australian champions Sydney FC. The two clubs drew 2-2 at Aussie Stadium in March, and they could not be separated at Saitama Stadium on May 23, although Brazilian striker Washington missed a glorious chance in the final minute of the match.
2007 JOMO All-Star Game
The 2007 JOMO All-Star Game between Japan East and Japan West will take place on at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi on August 4.
With team selections made according to public votes, several of the J-League’s most popular players are vying to make their respective teams.
The match should see the likes of Shimizu S-Pulse’s popular midfielder Jungo Fujimoto do battle with Kawasaki’s Kengo Nakamura, while forty year old Yokohama FC veteran Kazuyoshi Miura is another player who can expect to take part in the match, which marks the resumption of football in Japan after the mid-season summer break.