Football Tribe SEA Editor
FC Tokyo managed to keep up pace with league leaders Kashima Antlers after a quick double salvo within the opening 7 minutes earned the capital side a 2-0 win at Oita Trinita on Saturday, October 2nd. Facing off against the newly-promoted side at the Showa Denko Dome in Oita, FC Tokyo immediately pressed their foot down the gas and raced into a 2-0 lead within the first 7 minutes thanks to strikes from Kensuke Nagai (5′) and Tsuyoshi Watanabe (7′). Shocked by the two goals, Oita did well to recover and dominate the match as they claimed the lion’s share of the possession and sent shot after shot towards Kenta Hasegawa men’s goal, however, FC Tokyo showed their class and talent as a title challenger to fend off efforts from Tomohiro Katanosaka’s charges and leave Oita with all three points. Kenta will be delighted with his team’s performance as victory meant that they’re still second in the league after Matchweek 30 of the J.League 1, tailing Kashima very closely with only goal difference separating the two.
Kashima themselves had also won their Matchweek 30 game on Friday, October 1st, after defeating 2019 AFC Champions League finalists Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0 at the Kashima Soccer Stadium. Facing a grueling set of schedule in the domestic front due to their continental commitments, Urawa head coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki decided to ring the changes from the team that drew 1-1 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima just a few days ago, with Haruki Fukushima replacing usual suspect Shusaku Nishikawa in goal, Yosuke Kashiwagi and Kenyu Sugimoto starting up front, and main man Shinzo Koroki on the bench. Facing off against the league leaders, Urawa performed admirably, only to go down by a single goal thanks to a strike from Kashima’s Serginho in the 72nd minute. Other than Serginho’s goal, the match also had its controversial moment, when Tsuyoshi was judged to have shoved Kashima’s Ryota Nagaki to the ground, forcing the ref to send off Urawa’s head coach to the stands. Tsuyoshi was subsequently fined ¥1 million by Urawa for his conduct.
Kashima’s three points, coupled with FC Tokyo’s win, meant that the two sides are still battling tightly for the J1 title, each waiting for the moment the other will slip up with both sides racking up 59 points. Defeat meanwhile took Urawa down to 11th on the table with 36 points, but still with a cushion of points separating them and the drop zone. The grueling gauntlet of J1 games continues for Urawa as they take on Kawasaki Frontale in their Matchweek 32 game that was played in advance at the Saitama Stadium 2002 tomorrow.
Saturday’s other Matchweek 30 game saw the Shizuoka Derby being played out in a usual electric and exciting atmosphere at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira. With both Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata fighting out for prefectural pride, they also had two contrasting goals in mind – Shimizu are looking for points to lift themselves away from relegation trouble having lost their recent couple of matches, while J1 basement dwellers Jubilo are not only looking to extend their slim survival hopes but also avenge their painful penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Shimizu in the Emperor’s Cup last month. As expected from these derby encounters, a red card was bound to be involved in the match, with Shimizu’s Hwang Seok-ho was sent off for a professional foul in the 5th minute of the match. Jubilo seized the numbers advantage and scored first in the 39th minute through Kotaro Fujikawa, before Shimizu restored parity five minutes into the second half through a Kentaro Oi own-goal. Jubilo won’t be denied like the last time though and emerged as winners after Adailton restored the Iwata side’s lead in the 86th minute, with former Pattaya United and Chonburi striker Lukian providing the assist. With the 2-1 win, not only that the prefectural bragging rights would go to Jubilo and their cup defeat avenged, the sky blue team’s slim survival chances are also slightly improved for yet another matchweek.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Matchweek 30 saw Vissel Kobe beating Vegalta Sendai at home 2-0, Yokohama F. Marinos managing to survive a trip to the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium after dispatching hosts Sagan Tosu 2-1, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo smashing three unanswered goals through Nagoya Grampus for a comprehensive 3-0 win, Cerezo Osaka and Matsumoto Yamaga playing a 1-1 draw and Kawasaki enjoying home comforts against Sanfrecce Hiroshima to emerge 2-1 winners.
Sunday’s only Matchweek 30 match has Shonan Bellmare hosting Gamba Osaka at the Shonan BMW Stadium in Hiratsuka. The hosts are in dire straits with 0 wins in their last 7 games, with their last win coming all the way back in August. Gamba surely relished the opportunity given to them and wasted no time in ripping Shonan apart, with Kosuke Onose opening the scoring for the Suita-based side in the 10th minute. Gamba continued to pepper Shonan with shot after shot and doubled their lead just before half-time through Takashi Usami. Usami soon proved his worth as Gamba’s star man of the night by scoring his side’s third of the night, bagging a brace in the 50th minute. The crushing 3-0 win meant that Gamba are now 9th on the table with 38 points, equal with Vissel Kobe on 10th but above the star-studded side by goal difference and 5 points off Oita on 8th. Shonan, on the other hand, remained in 16th, sitting in the relegation play-off zone with 31 points, but with Matsumoto and Jubilo earning points in Matchweek 30, Shonan’s position is coming under threat and should their rot in form continues to the next matchweek, it’s not impossible for the Hiratsuka-based side to fall into the automatic relegation spots considering Matsumoto are only a point behind them with 30 points, with Jubilo stalking the two with 25 points and four more games to go.