Football Tribe Asia
Amidst the hype of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2019 J.League 1 enters its business end over the weekend as the league played out its 28th Matchweek, with ties played over Friday, October 4th to Sunday, October 6th. There were several results that had huge ramifications for both ends of the league table!
Matchweek 28 opens up with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo visiting Gamba Osaka at the Panasonic Stadium Suita on Friday. The visitors are favorites for this match as they were fighting in the top half of the table, while the hosts are struggling to move themselves off the lower half. However, tragedy struck Consadole as their Thai star Chanathip Songkrasin was injured during warm-up. Without Messi Jay to aid their attack, Consadole were left a sitting duck as Gamba hit them for five, with goals from Shu Kurata (57′), Takashi Usami (61′), Ademilson (70′), Hiroki Fujiharu (88′), and Kazuma Watanabe (90+2′) condemning the northerners to a heavy 5-0 defeat. The loss of Chanathip would severely affect the Thai national team, who are embarking on two matches against Congo (friendly) and the UAE (2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier) in the upcoming international break, as he was advised by Consadole’s doctors to sit the next two weeks out.
Saturday’s matches saw leaders FC Tokyo being stunned by relegation-battling Sagan Tosu at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium. Hirotaka Mita opened the scoring in the 49th minute for FC Tokyo, but while the away side thought that they would cruise into yet another victory, Sagan had other ideas as a late salvo from Yohei Toyoda (86′) and Takashi Kanai (90+6′) meant that the Kyushu side managed to boost their survival chances with the three points. On the same day, Oita Trinita conceded an injury time goal for the second straight matchweek as they drew 1-1 at Nagoya Grampus. Losing their previous match 2-1 to bottom-side Jubilo Iwata thanks to an injury time winner, Oita led the match on the 52nd minute thanks to Kazushi Mitsuhira, however on the first minute of injury time Shuhei Akasaki forced the two sides to share the spoils. Oita’s grip on mid-table remained safe, however, as Sanfrecce Hiroshima demolished Vissel Kobe 6-2 on the same day. The Turtles of Oita are now 8th on the table with 40 points, level with Consadole on 7th, while Vissel are five points behind the two on 9th. Saturday’s other matches saw relegation-battling Matsumoto Yamaga earning an important 1-0 win at Vegalta Sendai and Jubilo losing 2-0 at Yokohama F. Marinos.
FC Tokyo’s loss opened the doors for Kashima Antlers to take over the J1 leadership on Sunday, as they managed to eke out a 1-0 win away at Cerezo Osaka. A 6th minute strike from Tomoya Inukai was enough to send the Ibaraki side top, heating up the title race as the season draws nearer to its finale. Fresh from beating Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao in the 2019 AFC Champions League semifinal, Urawa Red Diamonds followed up that performance with a 2-1 home win over Shimizu S-Pulse, with goals from Shinzo Koroki (45+2′) and Daiki Hashioka (75′) cancelling out Douglas’ opener in the 19th minute. Matchweek 28 was closed with another demolition job as defending champions Kawasaki Frontale destroyed Shonan Bellmare at Hiratsuka 5-0, Shonan’s second heavy defeat at home in two matchweeks after Shimizu had mauled them 6-0 in Matchweek 27.