Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Japan: Four way title battles ensures tight finish to season

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on August 20, 2011

J-League logoWith twelve rounds of matches to play in the Japanese J-League there is an intriguing four way battle for title honours. Last season’s champions Nagoya Grampus Eight are, along with Yokohama Marinos, just one point behind the top two of Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol (22 games, 43 points).

Gamba Osaka were involved in the tie of the weekend getting the better of  Kawasaki Frontale by six goals to three with Brazilian Rafinha scoring a hat-trick and helping stretch Gamba’s unbeaten run to seven matches. They have the privilege of first place due to a better goal difference over second place Kashiwa Reysol who also triumphed at home this weekend with a 3-2 win over bottom club Avispa Fukuoka. Kashiwa were a goal down early on but came back to ensure the three points and second place.

Champions Nagoya could have been top of the table but were surprisingly beaten 1-0 at home to Vegalta Sendai. Noaki Sugai’s 17th minute strike for the visitors proved to be the difference as Nagoya went down to their first league defeat since May, bringing a sixteen match unbeaten run to an end. Nagoya are now looking over their shoulders at Yokohama Marinos for whom Yuji Ono’s late winner six minutes from time gave the fourth placed side a 1-0 win over Jubilo Iwata.

Fifth placed Kashima Antlers, who won the J-League title three years in a row from 2007-09, have now won their last five games in a row, the latest being a 2-0 victory over Sanfreece Hiroshima today with both goals coming in the second half, but they are still some way off the leaders trailing Gamba by ten points.

At the bottom of the table it was a mixed bag of results for those teams in relegation trouble this weekend. Following their defeat to Kashiwa, bottom club Avispa Fukuoka’s position wasn’t helped by 16th place Ventforet Kofu’s 3-2 home win against Urawa Red Diamonds whilst second bottom Montedio Yamagata gained a point away to 15th place Omiya Ardija who are four points outside the relegation zone as the table currently stands.

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