J-League Review: Sanfrecce retakes league lead while Osaka squads battle to draw

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Vegalta Sendai, Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Nagoya Grampus, Kashima Antlers 2-1 Jubilo Iwata, Omiya Ardija 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 FC Tokyo, Kawasaki Frontale 1-2 Sagan Tosu, Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 Albirex Niigata, Gamba Osaka 2-2 Cerezo Osaka, Vissel Kobe 1-0 Urawa Reds

THE WEEKEND STORIES


The league's two top clubs changed places once again following a remarkable set of results. Vegalta Sendai fell 2-1 to Consadole Sapporo following an extra-time own goal, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima re-took the league lead by capitalising on an Omiya Ardija own goal as well as a second-half Kohei Shimizu strike.

With Urawa Reds the only top-third squad to lose in their match, a 1-0 defeat to a shorthanded Vissel Kobe, the race for third place has once again tightened as four teams are separated by just one point.

In the west, Banpaku Memorial Stadium was the scene of a white-hot Osaka Derby as Gamba and Cerezo ended even at 2-2. Takuma Edamura's double for Cerezo was cancelled out by an identical effort by Akihiro Sato, allowing Gamba fans to avoid the disgrace of a loss to their rivals but giving them little relief in their campaign to escape the drop zone.

Meanwhile, Shimizu S-Pulse followed up their dramatic J-League Cup quarterfinal comeback at Nagoya Grampus by winning 3-2 at home against the same opponents. The match was a testy affair, with seven Grampus players and three S-Pulse men receiving cautions.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four


  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 S. Hiroshima 21 12 4 5 42 23 +19 40
2 Vegalta Sendai 21 10 8 3 38 20 +18 38
3 Kashiwa Reysol 21 10 5 6 43 32 +11 35
4 Urawa Reds 21 9 8 4 28 21 +7 35


PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND


Akihiro Sato

Gamba Osaka

Down two goals at home against their hated derby opponents, Sato delivered a remarkable second-half performance, pulling the hosts even with a blistering 10-minute brace and spearheading their attack through the rest of the match. While home fans left disappointed that their team couldn't pick up the full three points, the result was encouraging for struggling Gamba.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND


"I still have to improve my connections [with my team-mates], so I focused on putting the ball in the goal."
-Cerezo newcomer Takuya Edamura after scoring a double in his first match since joining the team from S-Pulse

"They moved the ball around but they never threatened us."
-Sagan Tosu manager Yoon Jung-Hwan on his team's five-back formation after their win at Frontale

"I feel like I know how to score again."
-Shimizu S-Pulse striker Toshyuki Takagi, who scored in each of the team's last three matches

ODDS & ENDS


This round was not a good one for defences, with four teams allowing own goals

Good things also came in twos, with four players scoring doubles. But only one player (Yuji Nagazawa) saw his team win their match, as all four doubles were scored against opposing squads.


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