Football Tribe Asia
With 8 games to go until the end of the J1 season, both the title race and the race to avoid relegation heats up as rivals gained and lost vital points at such an important part of the season. Here’s a quick recap of the events in the 26th match week of J1!
Urawa Reds 1-2 Cerezo Osaka
Champions of Asia as recently as 2017, Urawa Red Diamonds are having a torrid season. Despite advancing to the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League, continental commitments had clearly taken a toll on the squad as the red side of Saitama currently sit 15th in the table, just one spot above the relegation play-off zone.
Their latest result had left a dent on the Reds’ bid for survival as they were beaten at home by ACL-chasers Cerezo Osaka. Riku Matsuda opened the scoring at the Saitama Stadium 2002 for Cerezo in the 47th minute after a goalless first half, before evergreen Shinzo Koroki leveled proceedings for Urawa in the 60th minute. However, Yuki Abe received a second yellow card in the 82nd minute, forcing Urawa to play with 10 men.
Cerezo capitalized on this and substitute Atomu Tanaka, formerly on the books of HJK Helsinki, scored the winner on the 84th minute. With the final score at 2-1 for Cerezo, this result will boost the Sakura’s bid for a strong finish, as they now sit 6th on the table, only five points off Yokohama F. Marinos in third place. For Urawa, manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki must rally his troops if the Reds want to avoid the ignominy of relegation.
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Nagoya Grampus
Nagoya Grampus started the season like a house on fire, with only two defeats in their first ten games. However, inconsistencies began to set in and before they knew it, Nagoya found themselves closer to the relegation zone than the top three. The Red Whales visited Shizuoka Prefecture to take on the region’s orange side, Shimizu S-Pulse, for what was an important six-pointer whose winner will cement themselves in mid-table and condemning the loser closer into the relegation dogfight.
Nagoya started with all cylinders firing and drew first blood thanks to Kazuya Miyahara in the 14th minute. However, buoyed by their fans at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Shimizu scored three goals, one in the first half and two in the second, to turn the game to their advantage. Kenta Nishizawa scored a brace for the men in orange in the 25th and 59th minute, sandwiching a Yosuke Kawai effort. Nagoya did not relent, however, and got one back in the 74th minute thanks to Aria Jasuru Hasegawa. However, Shimizu defended well in the remaining minutes to secure the win. The result meant that Shimizu leapfrogged Nagoya to 10th in the table with 32 points, with Nagoya in 11th with 31 points. The tight nature of the J1’s bottom half (with teams from 11th to 15th all having 31 points) meant that one false step and Nagoya would find themselves in the relegation play-off zone.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 1-3 Vegalta Sendai
Vegalta Sendai went up north to take on Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Sapporo Dome, with avoiding relegation the first thing in their priority. But it’s never going to be easy taking on a Consadole side eager to emulate their top-half finish from last season, with their fearsome “Double Jay” combination, consisting of Thailand’s Chanathip Songkrasin (nicknamed Messi Jay) and former Premier League player Jay Bothroyd, ready to tear apart any defense. However, Vegalta shocked the Hokkaido faithful by scoring first in the 32nd minute thanks to Yoshiki Matsushita. Takuma Arano equalized for Consadole in the 50th minute, however, goals from Simao Mate and Ramon Lopes in the 53rd and 85th minute respectively sealed the win for Vegalta, who now have something to build on in their bid to escape the tight J1 drop zone.