J.League Column: Opening day games

Just before the 2013 J.League season begins, here's a look at some games that made the opening day of the campaign one to remember

The 2013 J.League season gets underway this weekend, with 40 clubs - 18 in J1 and 22 in J2 - hopeful of getting off to a flying start in their first matches.

Some sides will know exactly what to expect from the teams lining up against them in Round 1 though - here are a few fixtures that have taken place on the opening day before.

March 6th, 2005 – Kashiwa Reysol v. Kawasaki Frontale

Reysol finished bottom of J1 in 2004 but were spared relegation as the league was growing from 16 to 18 teams. Frontale also benefited from that expansion, joining the top flight as J2 champions.

It looked like they were headed for defeat on their return to division one when Yoshiteru Yamashita put Reysol ahead with a little over 10 minutes to play, but Juninho rescued a point for the Kanagawa club with a strike in the 89th minute.

March 23rd, 2003 – Sanga v. Gamba

This Sunday Gamba Osaka - former J.League, Nabisco Cup, Emperor’s Cup, and Asian Champions League winners - will be kicking off their first season in J2. Their opponents Kyoto Sanga also suffered bitter disappointment in 2012 when they failed to gain promotion.

A decade ago things were very different for the Kansai sides and their previous Round 1 meeting came in J1. Sanga - who would eventually be relegated - took the lead through Daisuke Nakaharai, but goals from Chiquiarce and Kota Yoshihara ensured Gamba took all three points.

March 10th 2012 – Sanfrecce Hiroshima v. Urawa Reds

We don’t have to look very far back to find the other occasion when these two were paired up on the first weekend of the season, as it was only last year.

Sanfrecce will be hoping that the visit of Reds is a good omen, as their win last year - via a solitary goal from eventual Player of the Year and top scorer Hisato Sato - set them on their way to their first ever J1 title.