J-League Review: Marinos escape drop zone with first win while Gamba & Frontale suffer big losses

Sunny skies across Japan brought a much-needed attendance boost as the J-League welcomes the country's Golden Week holiday season with three match days in the next week
ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

FC Tokyo 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse, Nagoya Grampus 1-2 Urawa Reds, Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 Sagan Tosu, Kawasaki Frontale 1-4 Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kashima Antlers 5-0 Gamba Osaka, Omiya Ardija 2-1 Consadole Sapporo, Yokohama F. Marinos 3-1 Vissel Kobe, Albirex Niigata 0-1 Vegalta Sendai, Cerezo Osaka 3-2 Jubilo Iwata

THE WEEKEND STORIES

Struggling Yokohama F. Marinos finally earned their first win of 2012, overcoming a 57th-minute goal by Vissel's Tsubasa Oyatsu with headers by Yuji Ono and Hiroyuki Taniguchi as well as insurance veteran Yuji Nakazawa. The win brought Marinos to 15th place on goal difference.

Fellow basement-dwellers Gamba Osaka were not as lucky, suffering an embarassing 5-0 defeat at Kashima Antlers. Yasushi Endo, Shinzo Koroki, Masashi Motoyama, and Yuya Osako recorded goals for the hosts in the blowout, with the latter completing the double in additional time. The match was Gamba's worst loss of the season and their first without a goal.

Scoring was also plentiful at Todoroki Stadium, although Kawasaki Frontale would prefer to forget their 4-1 loss to visiting Sanfrecce Hiroshima as new manager Yahiro Kazama got off to a slow start. Sanfrecce were nearly flawless on the attack, striking the woodwork four times in the second half alone in addition to goals by Satoru Yamagishi and Naoki Ishihara on top of Hisato Sato's brace.

Officiating factored heavily in other matches, especially in the capital where Shimizu S-Pulse won 1-0 at FC Tokyo despite being reduced to nine men after Jimmy Franca and Alex Brosque each received two cautions. Four other S-Pulse men saw yellow cards, but 20-year-old Toshiyuki Takagi's blistering shot off a counter pushed the visitors up to fourth place.

Similar scenes drew attention at Big Swan Stadium, where a controversial finish saw three Albirex Niigata players cautioned in the 88th minute before Vegalta Sendai's Wilson took the game-winning penalty kick just moments later. Albirex's Bruno Lopes was ejected soon after the goal with his second caution of the night, preventing the hosts from mounting a successful last-ditch effort and allowing Vegalta to remain unbeaten.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Vegalta Sendai 8 7 1 0 19 6 +13 22
2 S. Hiroshima 8 5 1 2 14 6 +8 16
3 Urawa Reds 8 5 1 2 11 7 +4 16
4 Shimizu S-Pulse 8 5 0 3 10 9 +1 15

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Yasushi Endo

Kashima Antlers

Endo was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday, scoring Antlers' first goal and anchoring the team's attack in their 5-0 thrashing of Gamba in front of an entertained home crowd.

The 24-year-old's overwhelming presence left the visitors scrambling, as nearly every touch seemed to create a new threat in need of containment.
QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"I just hoped we wouldn't be reduced to eight players"
-S-Pulse manager Afshin Ghotbi after the team's miraculous short-handed win at FC Tokyo

"He just took over the team this week, and after watching them I think they'll improve"
-Sanfrecce manager Hajime Moriyasu after giving newly-installed Frontale coach Yahiro Kazama a 4-1 loss in his first appearance

"I haven't seen my dad yet but I'm sure he'll have something to say about me being subbed out so early"
-Sagan Tosu midfielder Kouta Mizunuma on his father, former national team member and current TV commentator Takashi. The elder Mizunuma was in the booth for the 1-1 draw.

THE NUMBERS

15 - Reysol veteran Hideaki Kitajima's first-half goal extended his scoring streak to an unprecedented 15th straight season
20 - Number of goals Gamba have surrendered despite the blockbuster signing of centre-back Yasuyuki Konno
102 -
With his brace, Hisato Sato rises to a tie for eighth place on the all-time J1 scoring list

One is the loneliest number -
With just one point from eight matches, Consadole Sapporo are the only team without a win in the top flight

PHOTO OF THE WEEKEND

Singing in the rain | Marinos fans bring out their trademark umbrellas to celebrate the year's first victory

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