Japan struggled to overcome a gritty India side in an Asian Cup qualifier interrupted by floodlight failure and a stray dog on the pitch. For the first time coach Ivica Osim gave starts to Gamba Osaka striker Ryuji Bando and Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Kengo Nakamura and the pair responded by scoring the goals that saw off the South Asian Football Federation champions. Bando scored twice before half-time and Nakamura added a third with a rasping drive late on in what was ultimately another frustrating performance by the Keluaran Sgp Blue Samurai. Their final Asian Cup qualifier takes place against Saudi Arabia in Sapporo on November 15.
October 4, Ghana
Japan went down 1-0 to Ghana in their Kirin World Challenge match in front of more than 52,000 fans in Yokohama. Substitute midfielder Draman Haminu scored the only goal of the game for Ghana in the 73rd minute. Ivica Osim gave debuts to Hiroki Mizumoto, Kengo Nakamura, Satoru Yamagishi and Ryuji Bando. Yamagishi came closest to scoring when he hit the post in the 55th minute following a through ball from Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Hisato Sato.
J-League News: Urawa capitalise as Gamba slip up
Urawa Reds have opened a shock five point gap at the top of the J-League as Gamba Osaka suffer a case of the late season jitters. Former league leaders Gamba have picked up just one point in the last three matches and Urawa have taken full advantage, picking up maximum points to move five clear with just seven games remaining.
Kawasaki Frontale are the only other team in title contention – they are two points behind Gamba in third place, where they have been for much of the season. Shimizu S-Pulse and Kashima Antlers round out the top five although both clubs have seen their title aspirations disappear in recent weeks.
Big spending FC Tokyo are one club in free-fall, having won just one game in their last eight. The club from the capital seemed to have arrested their slump when new signing Sota Hirayama inspired them to a 2-1 victory at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Round 26. However Sanfrecce Hiroshima heaped more misery by defeating Tokyo 5-2 in the latest round of J-League action, leaving Tokyo in 14th place on the table, equal on points with Hiroshima.
Three clubs remain locked in a relegation dogfight, with Kyoto Purple Sanga having hauled itself into the 16th placed relegation/promotion play-off position. Kyoto were promoted to the top flight with Avispa Fukuoka last season and both clubs are battling with last-placed Cerezo Osaka to avoid a swift return to J2.
Shunsuke Nakamura: Celtic
After winning the penalty that saw Celtic overcome FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League, Nakamura continued his excellent form by scoring his first ever hat-trick for Celtic in a 4-1 victory over Dundee United. Celtic manager Gordon Strachan labelled Nakamura “a top, top player” on BBC Radio Scotland in praise of the diminutive playmaker’s performance.
Naohiro Takahara: Eintracht Frankfurt
Takahara created the equaliser in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 1-1 draw at VfB Stuttgart and came off the bench in both legs of the 6-2 aggregate victory over Brondby in the UEFA Cup.
Junichi Inamoto: Galatasarary
Inamoto has not featured for Galatasaray since a 3-1 loss at Trabzonspor on September 23rd. He missed the 3-2 UEFA Champions League loss to Liverpool at Anfield due to an alleged stomach problem.
Mitsuo Ogasawara: Messina
Ogasawara has started twice for Messina in Serie A, however the former Kashima Antlers midfielder did not feature in his club’s overnight loss to Siena.
Masashi Oguro: Torino
An injury to Roberto Muzzi helped Masashi Oguro see his first Serie A action since the opening round in Torino’s overnight victory against Chievo. Oguro had little impact after coming off the bench to replace Muzzi in the 53rd minute.
Kenji Fukuda: Numancia
One of Japan’s forgotten men, former Nagoya Grampus Eight striker Fukuda left Spanish Second Division club Castellon for rivals CD Numancia this season. Fukuda scored the final goal of a 5-1 rout at bottom club Vecindario on September 30 but has not been on the score sheet since.
The third round of Japan’s oldest club competition took place on October 8. This round marked the entry of J2 clubs and resulted in some shock results.
Perhaps the biggest shock came in Tokyo where fallen giants Tokyo Verdy were humbled 1-0 by Tochigi SC – who ply their trade a division lower in the Japan Football League. Tochigi SC were rewarded with a trip to face J1 opponents Shimizu S-Pulse in the next round.
S-Pulse’s crosstown neighbour Shizuoka FC also upset a J2 club – defeating Mito Hollyhock 1-0. They now face a daunting trip to J1 champions elect Urawa Reds in the fourth round.
J2 high flyers Vissel Kobe sent out a reserve team for their match against YKK AP and paid the price, losing 4-2 at home. Their amatuer neighbours Banditonce Kobe fared better, beating Second Division table-toppers Yokohama FC and booking a clash against J1 strugglers FC Tokyo.
J1 clubs enter the competition in the fourth round.