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J1 Round 29: Sundays Pair
fct_gamba.jpgIf you were going to have to bet on ONE team to win a game on any given day from the following list: Gamba, Antlers, Cerezo, and FCTokyo, who would you choose?

Exactly.

So what a huge suprise that the outcome of Round 29's Sunday pair of games between Gamba/FCT and Antlers/Cerezo... went to the team least likely to win.

As could be expected, Gamba created the greater portion of chances, but FCT clung on. FCT 2-1 Gamba

I chose to chew my nails through the Antlers 0-0 Cerezo game. If you really cared about either of these teams, it was one of those game that you were almost tempted to take up smoking if you don't already.

Fearless and physical defensive pressure from Cerezo, and the Antlers looked uncomfortable for the first ten or so minutes. Soon they got the rhythm, but were unable to make their opportunities bear fruit. Particularly lacking in finish this day was Kashima's Motoyama...

And the lack of goals in the first half really came back to haunt Kashima when in the second half left sideback Araiba was shown a red for going after Morishima. There were yellow cards flying all over, but given the tension in the air and the stakes, the players were controlling themselves.

Despite being one man down, Kashima kept up the pressure, and though they were threatened by a dynamic Cerezo attack, they did not pull back and defend only. I was actually surprised at how high they kept their defense line, despite the risk and the fact that a loss would be absolutely unacceptable. Cerezo went down a man too, later on, and it was interesting watching a 10 on 10 game... lots more space.

In the very last minute of the game during injury time, Osaka got hold of a cleared ball (off an Antlers corner) and went for the last second counter via Fabinho. When Sogahata came out of the box to slow him down, but Fabinho got the ball past, and in my mind, as I was losing consciousness, the last thought I had was..

...Oh my god. We're dead....

And then when I came to, I realized that the unlucky man had actually missed the shot!

>>Right-Click and Download to see the VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS from these two Sunday games.
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Le Mans 0-1 Nantes w/ video
A disappointing result against Nantes. But looking at the highlights it looks like Nantes was creating more chances and threatening more. But in the end it was the one PK that gave Nantes the win.

Daisuke Matsui came on in the second half, but no luck!

>>Click to see game highlights

Oh, and here's something a little fun. I think the first time we (in Japan) have actually heard Matsui speak French on camera. The club has hired a tutor for Matsui and the two other non-French speakers in the team to get lessons 3 times a week, but Matsui himself has said that it's difficult and languages are not his forte.

>>Click to see brief comment made in French last week after the Strasbourg game, in which he assisted in the first goal and scored the second winning goal. (He said he was happy about the result and the goal, and he wants to keep it up.) The rest of the interview he switched to Japanese via the translator.
Celtic 4-2 Dundee w/ video
>>Click to download video highlights from this game.

With this win, I believe Celtic are now at the top of the table!

TO read a translation of Shunsuke Nakamura's message posted on his website after the Dundee game, see the comments section for this entry.
Hide Assist vs Charlton
A little bit "lucky", but a level head allowed Hidetoshi Nakata to send a manageable cross in to Nolan for Bolton's winning goal. 1-0. It was good timing for both to be in good positions for the rebound from Faye's powerful shot.

>>Click to download clip

Click the FREE button. Then you need to wait a 10-20 seconds for the download link to appear at the bottom of the page.
J1 Round 29 Video Digest Clip Download
The NHK Sokuhou J-league show has been posted thanks to Video Newbie at BigSoccer. The quality is not great, but the content is worth it!!

>>Click to go to download the digest clip for Round 29

If the download is jammed, keep trying. It should work. If you encounter a blocked sign, let me know and I'll see if I can get you another link.
J1 Round 29 Saturday Summary
takoyaki.jpgpikachu.jpg
The colder weather is drawing spectators to line-up near the hot food stands -- this one a "takoyaki" stand at the Oita vs Kawasaki match on Saturday. Takoyaki is a walk-while-you-eat type festival food that is made of thick batter inserted with a chunk of octopus and made on these special pans into a ball. Condiments include special sauce, mayonnaise, chopped up dried seaweed and bonito flakes. You eat the with toothpicks, just stab and pop into your mouth!

If you got to the Nagoya vs Shimizu game early, there was plenty to do. It was Pikachu-Day, and Nintendo had stands out where you could play video games and contests where you could win pretty neat prizes. Ya go to a nice healthy football match and end up playing video games?! Yup. I guess so!

vissel_cranes.jpgThe psychological pressure is on at bottom-ranked Vissel Kobe. The club staff have been organizing a origami crane project, collecting folded paper cranes from supporters and local residents. Right now they have about 70,000, and in the photo 20,000 have been threaded into 100 strings so far. Folded paper cranes are symbolic, and carry the hopes and prayers of the people who folded them.


Urawa Reds 3-2 Kawasaki Frontale

An appropriately multi-goal game from the two attacking sides. Two goals from Alex Santos gave Reds a comfortable lead by the 34th minute, but that's about when Kawasaki decided it was their turn. Two from Juninho and Marques left things even as everyone headed for the lockerooms. The score was unusually still in the second half, but a corner for Reds gave Tulio yet another header -- the winning goal.

But let's not forget that 3rd goal that Kawasaki might have gotten had it not been for the refs calling a foul just as the shot was taken. That decision (and I can't say if it was a good call or not) took the momentum away from Frontale.

In the J2 days, Tulio was quite the goal-getter, so it isn't so suprising to see him play such a big role in Urawa's results. He used to not only score off set pieces, but also was much more of a "libero" and went on attacking runs alot back then. Now he can't take as much risk, but I guess the desire to contribute to the offense is a big part of his character as a player.

Kawasaki were on a winning streak of about six I think up until this game, but Reds seem to be finding their second wind -- they are well within reaching distance so the top three (who play today Sunday) will certainly be looking over their shoulders at more than one team.

Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Omiya Ardija

The overall impression of the game was that Omiya came through with cohesive team performance at the end, and it was a very very important game in the context of avoiding relegation. Chikara Fujimoto took the reins and stopped the nightmare streak his team was on -- it was the first win in 8 games.

Reysol manager went after the full three points by setting up a 3 man front line in a 4-3-3. Omiya manager Miura went with the 4-1-4-1, which was expected.

Kashiwa missed their captain Myojin (injury), and allowed Omiya control of the game. In particular, the Leandro-Sakurai speediness worked well for the visitors, and forced Kashiwa to give up several CKs in the first phase of the game.

But it was a Reysol free kick at 9 minutes that moved the score. Tamada's free kick to Tsuchiya's head. Everyone from the home side thought it was a good sign, to see Tsuchiya back playing and scoring an early goal.

But from there Kashiwa's cohesion, particularly in the defense to midfield area was poor, and they let Omiya intercept and counter attack over and over. On offense, their forward players did not have the chemistry they needed -- a difficult expectation for this new lineup to work considering it was new.

At the end of the day, it was the Squirrels' Fujimoto who sent a lovely through to Tuto who was able to make a difficult angled shot from the right. Six minutes after that, Tuto returned the favor and sent Fujimoto the ball -- for a sweet loop shot from just outside the box. (You should check out the highlights video clip >>here to see the hilarious derriere-shaking dance from Fujimoto.) This was all in the first 23 minutes of the game.

Kashiwa were able to regroup after Hayano changed the system to 3-4-3 in the second half, but Omiya had the upper hand in team cohesion and Reysol could not come up with anything surprising enough to catch Ardija off guard.

It was a pretty disgusted atmosphere that met the Kashiwa players as they went to the stands after the game. Ack, the uncomfortable silence!! :8 The low rumble of boos. There will be more of these, and tears, which I am not looking forward to....

Yokohama F Marinos 1-0 Tokyo Verdy

A big sigh of relief for the Marinos supporters and players. A header goal from captain Yuji Nakazawa put the Yokohama club n the safety zone from the possibility of relegation.

Though Marinos were not immediately in any threat, you could tell by the way the players looked so relieved after the game, that it was a big part of their thoughts these days. And the fact that manager Okada started Kubo after...I'm not even sure how many months it's been...shows that Marinos were looking for something to change their negative direction. Kubo was not back to 100%, but he played longer than expected for 79 mins. And Kubo recorded 4 shots, the highest taken in the game. Marinos played the better game and created quite a few chances but were just wide or were denied by the bar.

On the defense, Nakazawa marked Verdy's Washington, and the defense held quite well.

The fact that the game reflected Marinos' finishing problems is undeniable, but at this point it's really a matter of getting the goals in whatever shape or form. So in a way rather appropriate for the game to end with a goal off a set-piece, and from Nakazawa.

For Verdy dark days ahead. Like I said, it is almost impossible to imagine them going to the J2... but at this rate it is very possible.

Oita Trinita 0-1 Jef Chiba

This was a game I was looking forward to seeing. Though I must say the first half was rather irritating to watch because there was quite a bit of passing errors and strange positioning (imho). Things were a little heated in the beginning when a scuffle between Jef's Haas and an Oita player (I think it was Umeda) lit a few tempers.

But the game picked up considerably in play, with quite a bit of exciting stuff, though it took until the 81st minute for the first and only goal.

It was a "tricky" free kick, initiated by Abe. Instead of kicking it directly to the group in front of the goal, he sent it up the left side where I think it was Stoyanov was open to send a cross in perfectly to the middle. The defenders were distracted by Maki and others at the near and far posts, and Yuto Sato ran in unmarked and pushed the ball in with his head.


Jubilo Iwata 1-3 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Nagoya Grampus 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Albirex Niigata

Sunday's Games (today)
Gamba Osaka v FC Tokyo
Kashima Antlers v Cerezo Osaka
Nakamura's 1st Goal off a Free Kick
Celtic 5-0 Motherwell

A hat-trick from Petrov -- bravo to that!

Hee hee, I was just having this discussion with Frankie about Nakamura's free kicks in >>this comments section, and lo and behold our little Shun goes ahead and does it.

Maybe that little break from taking all the free kicks paid off!

>>Click to go to video download page

For a match report, >>click to go to BBC Sport article

What was most heartening to read was "Gordon Strachan's side started slowly but their slick one-touch passing improved as a breathtaking first half went on."

If you look at Petrov's first goal, you'll the this in action. Lovely overlaps, Motherwell can't keep up with the movement, and the passing with accuracy especially on that last pass. But truly the best passing sequence was the second goal from Maloney... all that light zig-zagging side to side stuff, and most of all the one-touch. They pulled Motherwell apart by spreading the ball horizontally, and so were able to get the goal despite being outnumbered.

And Shunsuke Nakamura's free kick -- I knew he had his heart set on the right of goal. And perfectly placed, can't ask for more. And we weren't going to see him try anything else until he got one in that location first. So maybe we will see more variety on his free kicks in the future.
May I direct your attention to...
I keep forgetting to post an entry on this, but I finally remembered while actually sitting in front of my computer, so here we are.

I wanted to point all of you in the direction of Furtho's OneTouchFootball Japan overview articles. Especially interesting is the information he gathers on the non-J-league scene.

Right now he has up a "photo special" reflecting the flavor and local feel (and some of the strange quirks and names) of regional and non-pro football in Japan.

>>Click to go to OneTouchFootball Furtho's Japan overview forum
Inamoto scores! WBA v Fulham
Finally.

Junichi Inamoto video highlights clip.


>>Click to download highlights from the West Brom 3-2 Fulham England League Cup game

If the above link is congested,
>>Try this download link

Inamoto 3rd minute assist, nice vertical through pass.

Some of those goal allowances were kinda nuts.

But Ina's extended time goal was... perfect. Really happy for him after what I'm sure was a depressing year and half for him. This shot is the kind of unique "Ina" shot that people like him for, and hopefully it will give him more chances on the squad.

**Thanks to Furtho for the heads up on the link!! Domo!
Hide 1st Goal Bolton 2-0 WBA w/ Video
As many of you probably heard already, Hidetoshi Nakata scored his first goal in a ... loooong time. The last time was during his Bologne days, April 10, 2004.

>>Right-Click and Download Hide video highlights

Awww.....

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