Football Tribe SEA Editor
Matchweek 33 of the 2019 J.League 1 was played yesterday, which yielded results that affected both ends of the table severely. Leaders Yokohama F. Marinos have practically one hand on the J1 trophy after a 4-1 thrashing of Kawasaki Frontale at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium, coupled with FC Tokyo’s inability to win their home match against Urawa Red Diamonds, being forced to a 1-1 draw by the 2019 AFC Champions League runners-up. At the other end of the table, both Jubilo Iwata and Matsumoto Yamaga kissed the J1 goodbye after their relegation was confirmed by the end of the matchweek. Matsumoto were on the receiving end of a 4-1 demolition job at the hands of Gamba Osaka, while Shonan Bellmare’s shock 1-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima meant that Jubilo’s 2-1 win over Nagoya Grampus was all for naught.
A raucous Todoroki greeted the Yokohama players as they took on the defending champions, but Ange Postecoglou’s men were unfazed by the presence of their Kanagawa rivals. It took 8 minutes for Yokohama to take the lead, thanks to their talismanic striker Teruhito Nakagawa, who scored his 15th goal of the season. Brazilian Erik became the bane of Kawasaki defenders after bagging himself a brace, while an empty net tap-in by Keita Endo on the 89th minute practically puts the icing on the cake. Leandro Damiao’s 74th minute consolation did nothing to dampen the celebratory mood in the Yokohama camp, who, bar a 4-0 home defeat at the hands of FC Tokyo in the final matchweek, are practically assured of the J1 title.
At the Ajinomoto Stadium, FC Tokyo, knowing that they must win their game against an Urawa side determined to put their Asian heartbreak behind them in order to have a shout in the title race, had their hearts fell to their mouth as their Brazilian hitman Diego Oliveira went down injured in the 33rd minute. Oliveira went down clutching his leg after receiving a high challenge from Urawa defender Ryosuke Yamanaka, who had joined Urawa from Yokohama last winter. While Oliveira recovered from that challenge soon enough, in the 39th minute Yamanaka and another former Yokohama player, Curaçao international Quenten Martinus, combined together to gave their former employers the huge advantage in the title race. Yamanaka fired off a shot that was saved by FC Tokyo goalie Akihiro Hayashi, only for Martinus to pounce in with the rebound to give Urawa the lead. FC Tokyo eventually equalized through Kyosuke Tagawa in the 68th minute, but it was a case of too little, too late as Yokohama’s destruction of Kawasaki meant that in order to win their maiden J1 title, Kenta Hasegawa’s Gasmen must win by 4 goals or more at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium on the final matchweek. The solitary point from Saitama was more than enough to earn FC Tokyo continental qualification though, as they will join Yokohama in the 2020 AFC Champions League, having last played there in 2016.
Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers’ title hopes went up in smoke and flames after Vissel Kobe trounced them 3-1 at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, Vegalta Sendai booked their place in the 2020 J1 League after prevailing 2-0 over Oita Trinita at home, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo prevailed at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium after beating hosts Sagan Tosu 2-0, and Cerezo Osaka emerged out 2-1 winners over visiting Shimizu S-Pulse.
Matsumoto and Jubilo Bid “Sayonara” to the J1
As the referee blew for full-time at the Panasonic Stadium Suita, not only that it marked the end of Gamba’s 4-1 win over Matsumoto, it also marked the end of the latter’s tenure in the J1. A brace from former Leeds United player Yosuke Ideguchi, coupled with goals from Kosuke Onose and Ademilson effectively sent Matsumoto back to the J2 after a year-long cameo appearance, with Hiroki Mizumoto’s goal acting as mere consolation for the men from Nagano Prefecture. However Matsumoto could look back at their campaign rather proudly, as they’ve given a number of bigger teams a run for their money, however a late slump meant that they’ll be playing J2 football next season.
Meanwhile, a bittersweet ambience was felt heavily at the Yamaha Stadium in Iwata. Goals from Masaya Matsumoto and Yoshito Okubo earned Jubilo a 2-1 win over visiting Nagoya, who could only reply through Aria Jasuru Hasegawa’s 39th minute strike. However, over at the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka, a 9th minute own goal from Hayato Araki was more than enough for Shonan to earn their first win in 11 matches, scrapping out a 1-0 win over Sanfrecce. Shonan’s win meant that Jubilo will be playing in the J2 next season, ending a 4-year tenure in the top flight. The sky blue side of Shizuoka Prefecture has been poor throughout the season and despite the arrival of Fernando Jubero sparked a revitalization within Jubilo, it is a case of too little, too late.
Both Matsumoto and Jubilo will be replaced by Kashiwa Reysol and Yokohama FC, champions and runners-up of the 2019 J2 League respectively. Kashiwa will make their immediate comeback to the top flight while Yokohama FC returns after a 13-year exile.
One remaining relegation spot is up for grabs through the J1-J2 play-offs, with Shonan (16th), Shimizu (15th), Sagan (14th), Urawa (13th), and Nagoya (12th) all at risk of falling into the play-off trapdoor. The final matchweek will see these four battle out to avoid that play-off position.