Round 27 featured an astonishing win by Albirex Niigata, the historic ineptitude of Consadole Sapporo, and a last second win by Urawa Reds.
by Dan Orlowitz & Kenji McCulley
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Vegalta Sendai, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 4-1 Sagan Tosu, Fc Tokyo 2-1 Jubilo Iwata, Albirex Niigata 5-0 Nagoya Grampus, Vissel Kobe 2-3 Cerezo Osaka, Omiya Ardija 0-0 Yokohama F. Marinos, Gamba Osaka 2-2 Kashima Antlers, Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Consadole Sapporo.
|THE WEEKEND STORIES
Entering their game against Nagoya Grampus, Albirex Niigata had yet to score three goals in a game all season—and with the game 0-0 at halftime, it looked as if that streak would continue. However, Albi scored five times in an astonishing second half performance to demolish last season’s runners-up. Despite the win, Albi remain in the relegation zone.
With their 1-0 loss away to Kawasaki Frontale, Consadole Sapporo clinched the earliest relegation in J. League history. Mathematically ensured of going down with 7 matches still left to play, Sapporo shattered the record they themselves set 4 years ago when they were relegated with 5 games to go.
With second-placed Vegalta Sendai losing, table toppers Sanfrecce Hiroshima seized the chance to extend their lead beating Sagan Tosu 4-1. Hisato Sato scored his league-leading 19th and 20th goals and Hiroshima now lead Sendai and Urawa Reds by five points.
After suffering a humiliating 5-0 home defeat at the hands of Gamba Osaka last time out, Urawa desperately needed to bounce back. The fantastically-named Popo scored with the last kick of the game to earn Urawa a 2-1 win over reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol. The win moves Urawa level on points with second-placed Vegalta and was just what the doctor ordered following last week’s embarrassment.
|PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
The veteran forward scored two more goals to reach 20 for the season and extend his lead atop the scoring chart. His selfless play and determination continues to drive Hiroshima toward the first J1 title in the club’s history. He is also now only 44 goals away from Masashi Nakayama’s record of 157 J1 goals, and with 7 matches left he could get much closer still.
|QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND
“Technique, tactics, on every level we came short of what was required to compete in this league.”
-Sapporo manager Nobuhiro Ishizaki following his side’s early relegation.
“Certainly we were lucky to score like that in the very end. But I also think that the victory was our reward for taking risks and attacking our opponents.”
-Urawa manager Miahilo Petrovic after his side beat Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 with a goal in the third minute of stoppage time.
|ODDS & ENDS
Consadole Sapporo have scored the fewest (20) and allowed the most (70) goals this season. As they showed, that is a formula for the earliest relegation in J League history.
Their 5-0 defeat to Albirex Niigata put Nagoya’s goal difference at -3. They are the only team in the top 10 with a negative goal difference.
Hisato Sato’s two goals put him at 20 on the season, the first time he has reached this number in J1. He has done it twice in J2, but the closest he had gotten in the top flight was 18. However, in his nine full seasons in J1 he has failed to reach double digits only once (9 in 2003).