Japan: Nagoya claim maiden J-League crown
Nagoya Grampus Eight have finally landed their first ever J-League title following their 1-0 away win at Shonan Bellmare today. Second place Kashima Antlers, champions for the last three years, were finally deposed having only managed a goalless draw at Vissel Kobe which means that they are ten points behind Nagoya with three matches remaining and, therefore, can not catch the league leaders.
Keiji Tamada was on hand to give Nagoya the only goal of a difficult away tie against Shonan Bellmare when converting an opportunity in the 66th minute of the match and gift his side all three points in what was a testing occasion for the league leaders. After the match they didn’t have to wait long to find out that their nearest rivals for the championship had dropped two crucial points and the celebrations could finally begin for Nagoya who have looked and played like champions in the second half of the season.
At the halfway stage of the competition Nagoya Grampus Eight were just a solitary point behind Shimuzu S-Pulse with a record of eleven wins, two draws and four defeats in the first seventeen matches. Since the latter half of the championship began Nagoya have won ten of their last fourteen games and that record has been coupled with title rivals such as Shimuzu, Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers dropping points at crucial times. Nagoya were also blessed with having two of the J-League’s top marksman in Australian international Joshua Kennedy, who has hit the back of the net an impressive sixteen times, and Temada whose eleventh league goal of the season proved arguably his most important as it sealed the championship title.
Nagoya Grampus Eight have qualified for the 2011 AFC Champions League and still have the chance to do a league and cup double as they play against Kashima Antlers in the quarter-finals of the Emperor’s Cup, the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup, in late December.