J3 League – Matchday 5

As I am preparing for my trip to Japan there was no time to do the match review yet. I cannot promise my trip to Japan until the end of may will cost a regulare update of my J3 blogging but I surely will give you some input from those matches I attend. Back to J3: Since all highlight videos were released in the meantime, let’s see what has happened.

First of all, matchday 5 is not over yet. For reasons I could not unveil until now the match between FC Ryukyu and Zweigen Kanazawa will be held on 16th April in Okinawa. So I will add the report from this match with Matchday 6 review, I hope.

 

  • Grulla Morioka 1-4 FC Machida Zelvia

Surprisingly tabletopping Grulla welcomed one of the designated for promotion team from Machida – at that moment second placed. A real top match we expected, a demonstration of power we got. Grulla wanted to be prepared for Machida’s supremacy and played with a defense line of 5 with Morita, Tanaka, Okada, Kobayashi and Saito. In front of them 4 midfield players wanted both, to defend and build up attacks with 1,90m giant Ryota Doi in front. Machida on the other hand played 4-4-2 with Kijima and Suzuki as a double forward.

The game started well for the home team as Zelvia’s Taira brought down Ryota Doi near the corner flag. A well kicked free kick above all defense players by Hayashi opened up the match. Yusei Okada, left alone on the far post, only needed to strike. The early goal in 3′ minute didn’t worry the Machida kickers. A long pass from Keisuke Harada found its way to Takafumi Suzuki. With a splendidly ball handling Suzuki kicked the ball above him and Morioka defender Kobayashi to strike with a long distance shot straight under the cross bar.. In 64′ minute raised trouble in Machida’s box as Kobayashi’s shot hit Hoshin’s upper arm. Morioka begged for a penalty but was disappointed by referee Ryosuke Yamaoka. Machida head coach Naoki Soma substituted Shota Saito in 74′. Good decision as he was the one hitting the net in 77′ after Takafumi Suzuki’s great assist. It was the time when Grulla Morioka collapsed. A Hoshine cross resulted in an own goal by Morioka’s Tanaka. The game found its end result when Takafumi Suzuki passed a ball to Koji Suzuki who only needed to hold his foot in, leaping the ball around Kohei Doi.

Man of the match: I would say midfielder Takafumi Suzuki who not only assisted twice but stroke himself with a really adorable long distance shot driving right below the bar, leaving no chance for Kohei Doi.

 

  • Yokohama Sports & Culture Club 0-2 J. League U-22 Selection

J3 League until now does not seem to be well-prepared when it comes to dirty weather. When Fukushima United hosted Gainare Tottori on matchday 4 the pitch was in no condition at all. The ground was so deep the ball did not bounce but layed down instantly. Gainare won with a penalty kick hit in the additional time. The match in Yokohama suffered from changing weather ending in two suspensions as hail made it impossible to go on.

Yokohama, ending the matchday on rock bottom, failed to hit the goal in 27′ minute when Yamada warded off the ball but Yokohama’s no. 18, Mita, was not able to overcome the ground-laying keeper. Ten minutes later Kagami on the other side of the pitch starting the game. Ishida’s shot attempt was parried by YSCC keeper Takahashi but Kagami reached the bouncing ball first. In 58′ minute it was Mita again who was not leap the ball over the substituted keeper Koizumi who lay on the ground like Yamada in first half. The devastating 0-2 began on the back left-hand side with a long ball on Kagami. Kagami shoved the ball right in Takahashi’s hand who was not able to keep it. The dropped ball was stolen by still attacking Kagami who passed to moved up Kaneko who only had to strike.

 

  • SC Sagamihara 3-0 Blaublitz Akita

Northern Honshu side Akita is still failing to focus.         Sagamihara on the other hand welcomed Naohiro Tanaka for the first time. He looks older as I remembered him when he played in Frankfurt. But time goes on and yet he is able to bring his performance.

The game started well for Sagamihara. A corner kick was headed by Takahara to Leonardo who only could head the ball away from the goal. Miyuki was there and brutally shot the ball slightly above the cross bar. An incomplete pass fell on Takahara’s foot who initated a second attack in 31′ minute. Kanda’s shot from inside the box went straight onto Akita’s keeper Miyake. On the other side Kumabayashi had a promising position for a free kick and indeed it might have been a goal if Tsuyoshi Sato has not been faster. Well done by the keeper. Takahara not only initiates attacks but also tries to strike. A long distance shot past the keeper only landed on the left post and jumped back in the game. Second half started as furious for the green jersey. Takahara longered a crossing with his head so Kanno only had to fulfill Sagamihara’s lead. Only five minutes later Mobi Fehr somehow reached a badly hit ball from Miyaki and deflected the ball passed the keeper. No idea what he has done. It was in the end  Takahara who was allowed to kick the penalty kick caused by Akita’s Maeyama.

Player of the match: I think it is pretty poor as Takahara is hyped enough for his assignment to Sagamihara but – i have to admit – watching the highlights, there is no way to come to a different conclusion. He is doing well at Sagamihara and might make a difference in matches to come. We will see in only a couple of days when Sagamihara probably enjoys good weather and an excitement game at FC Ryukyu on Okinawa. I am curious.

 

  • Fujieda MYFC 0-0 Fukushima United FC

Tsugutoshi Oishi – even though I am lacking the ability to remember names properly, especially Japanese ones, this name was is connected to matchday 4. With his debut in the Starting XI he scored not only once, not twice, not thrice – no, he scored four times against AC Nagano Parceiro.

This time to be hones, I am a little disappointed as he was not able to score once. Fujieda was doing pretty well controlling most of the game. Oishi, Edamoto and Hisatomi neither shot a goal and so it was a little but lucky that Fukushima’s Kim decided to attempt a shot instead of passing to completely free Junya Kuno. You have to admit Fukushima United yet only conceded 6 goals which is a great result among teams with 10 goals conceded. Fujieda lacks dangerous shot attempts – half of their goals were shot against Nagano Parceiro by Oishi.

 

  • Gainare Tottori 1-1 AC Nagano Parceiro

If we were in 2013 I would say there is no way this match is going to end on Tottori’s side. Even though in J2, Gainare was struggeling to win any game since July. Parceiro on the other hand have not lost a match between April and November 2013, except for the last two match days. To cite a former and soon to be jailed Bundesliga president: „The trend is your friend.“ And therefore it is 2014, Gainare won two times against SC Sagamihara (pre-Takahara era) and Fukushima United FC with 1-0. Parceiro on the other hand lost against Fujieda. and struggled against Zweigen Kanazawa with a better end for them. A draw therefore was a good bet I guess.

So it be. The game was broadcastet live in TV and I was lucky enough to see it from the middle of first half on. It wa a harsh game as until 25′ minute the spectators saw one shot attempt on both sides. The second shot attempt for Tottori was a corner kick that landed directly in Kengo Takanas arms. Or would’ve landed if he thought it might be a good idead to keep it there. Didn’t look decent when it comes to his save attempt. Parceiro’s manager looked a little affected in HT but no changes for 2nd half. Gainare was controlling the game for what I understand until maybe 70′ minute. Best chance had Tadayo Fukuo who shot a Tanaka rebound straight into the corner where Tanaka was standing. In the last 20 minutes Nagano was being stronger with good chances by substituted Katsumata and a lovely free kick by Unozawa sent directly on the crossbar. Gainare then failed to end the game. Nagano’s Oshima wanted to hold a long ball shot by Gainares defence to substituted Tanio but felled miserably leaving the ball served for Tanio. Tanio only had to leave Tanaka exposed but his ball handling was too poor. Tanaka ran straight towards Tanio and grabbed the too far exhibited ball before Tanio could’ve attempt a shot. Nagano’s equalizer was the result of a splendid Unozawa run on the left side where he hold the ball against Tottori’s Sumida. His final cross ball went directly into the upper far corner of the goal with no chance for Sugimoto to get it. Inteded or not, Unozawa has some great quality and it is strange he and his team are not on top of the table.

—————————————————

Again I am sorry that the review comes a little late. Therefore I will add a little outlook on the upcoming matchday tomorrow noon.

 

Not only that finally FC Ryukyu is back in the game hosting SC Sagamihara (now Takahara-era), the top game in my opinion might be Machida Zelvia against Zweigen Kanazawa. Not because both teams are far on top but mainly because Kanazawa in my opinion has some great composition in their team. They might find a way to bring down Fortress Nozuta.

A derby occurs in Northern Honshu as Blaublitz Akita welcomes Iwate Prefecture’s Grulla Morioka. Nagano might add important points to their account with a home win against Yokohama SCC, Fujieda has to play against Gainare Tottori and the J-22 Selection will play in Fukushima against United FC.

 

I am not sure if I will be able to participate the upcoming weeks. As I wrote at the beginning of the entry I will go to Japan from 14th April to 23rd May and will watch some J. League, ACL and J3 League live. Some highlights are Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs. Central Coast Mariners, Kashima Antlers vs. Tokushima Vortis, Gamba Osaka vs. Kashima Antlers (Yamazaki Nabisco Cup) and what I am most curious about: FC Ryukyu hosting Fukushima United FC.

If you like, stay tuned.

J3 League – Matchday 4

One might think that after three matchdays you might be able to understand how the teams correlate within the league. Which teams are maybe superior to others, which one seems far away from anything countable and will likely to end in rock bottom. Well, Matchday 4 proved those wrong.

 

Zweigen Kanazawa 4-0 Yokohama Sports and Culture Club

Unlike the first three matchdays where all matches took place on early sunday afternoon (JST – I still have to get up on 6AM) matchday 4 already started on saturday with Zweigen hosting Yokohama SCC. Last weekend Yokohama battled Machida Zelvia and got a point out of it. Machida is not dominating the league but they are gaining enough points leaving them in the top area of the roster. Yokohama on the other hand does appear as constant as they probably hope. YSCC was crushed this matchday by Zweigen Kanazawa, bodily by Masao Tsuji hitting the target with a hattrick over both halves. His performance marked the end of Shohei Kiyoharas Blitz-goal in 2′ minute. Only 658 people wanted to see their side win in this match.

 

Blaublitz Akita 1-2 J. League U22 Selection

After the youngster’s destruction against Grulla Morioka Tsutomo Takahata decided to roll up the squad. With a bunch of debutants leaving only 6 „veteran“ players with a single call before and Hiroki Akino and Naoki Ogawa with two call prior to this one. Akino after all was not part of the squad that played in Akita which left one seat on the bench empty. Shota Kaneko was the first to score for the Selection in 11′ minute. It took Blaublitz until 60′ minute when Takashi Fujii equalized. Substituted Masatoshi Ishida marked the win with his goal in 86′ minute. So, apart from the fact that Blaublitz does not seem to be a team competing with those on top, bringin new blood to the squad payed off for the Selection.

 

FC Machida Zelvia 2-0 SC Sagamihara

With the signing of Naohiro Takahara, SC Sagamihara wanted to overcome their black horse role in J3 League. The former national team forward might have been a type of player that destabalizes the Machida defense line but after all you could not find his name on the paper. Naoki Soma chose wisely bringing Fukatsu Kota and Satoru Hoshino. Even though both were responsible for the Bastion called Fortress Nozuta they were not operating at full capacity and decided to decide the game on their own. Kota scored in 12′ minute quite early in the game, Hoshino raised the score in 76′ minute. After four games Machida Zelvia conceded only one single goal.

 

AC Nagano Parceiro 1-4 Fujieda MYFC

You are reading right. Playing against down bottom side Fujieda at home Naoki Minobe wanted to overrun the Shizuokan side. With a triple assigned offense line consisting of Shunta Takahashi, Yuji Unozawa and Yuki Sato Minobe clearly had one direction in mind. DIdn’t work out too well. If you thought the hattrick of Tsuji was impressive what do you think about Tsugutoshi Oishi straight hattrick in the first half of the game? Not impressed yet? What if I tell you that the 24 year old joined Fujieda after played at FC Kariya (a regional league team from Aichi prefecture? No? Well, he did not only pull a rabbit out of his hat but also an Easter egg, when he scored four goals all by himself. The triangle of Takahashi, Unozawa and Sato did not score but it was substituted midfielder Hatada to lower the gap between both sides. But Oishi’s supremacy was too much today for highly-bidded AC Nagano Parceiro.

 

FC Ryukyu 0-1 Grulla Morioka

The top match between FC Ryukyu and Grulla Morioka (leaving out Zweigen’s period table topping after saturday) was nothing to enjoy if you are following the match on the ticker. In 82′ minute Okada decided the game. FC Ryukyu on the other hand did not only lose the game but also Shota Aoki with with a yellow-red card in 87′ minute. The reason behind that? I do not know yet and have to wait for the highlights. Anyway it is no result I want to comment on anyway. Grulla anyway leads the league having not lost yet.

 

Fukushima United 0-1 Gainare Tottori

Having wait 82 minutes for the first and single goal in Okinawa this match was even harder to follow. In fact nothing really happend. No cards, only substitutions and both sides seem to have decided to make the best of it. Who did not want to accept this result was Eijiro Mori who scored in the additional time costing Fuksuhima their second point and bringing Gainare back in the game.

 

The table:

  1. Grulla Morioka   +8   10
  2. FC Machida Zelvia   +5   8
  3. Gainare Tottori   +2   8
  4. Zweigen Kanazawa   +7   7
  5. FC Ryukyu   +4   7
  6. AC Nagano Parceiro   -1   7
  7. J. League U22 Selection   -5   6
  8. SC Sagamihara   -2   4
  9. Fujieda MYFC   -4   3
  10. Blaublitz Akita   -3   2
  11. Yokohama SCC   -6   1
  12. Fukushima United FC   -4   1

 

Player of the week, no doubt, is Tsugutoshi Oishi. His first appearence at Fujieda was in last weeks draw against FC Ryukyu when he was substituted and played for 38 minutes. You might want to question, where has he been on matchday 1 and 2? A bit disappointing is Nagano Parceiros campaign until this point. Having signed one of last year’s top scorers Shunta Takahashi from FC Ryukyu and having hold MVP and top scorer Yuji Unozawa in squad you might wonder that Nagano until now only shot 4  goals. Just to remind you, a former regional league player shot 4 goals in less than 60 minutes against Parceiro. Really, just to remind you.

Fortuna Düsseldorf hosts Jubilo Iwata U18 / U19 Champions Trophy

My regular stand in German Bundesliga is at Fortuna Düsseldorf in 2nd Division. A team that – having returned from the 4th division to arrive at the top tier in 2012/13 after 15 years of absence – now even struggles to hold its place in 2nd Bundesliga. Düsseldorf is tightly connected to Japan as it posesses the 3rd largest Japanese diaspora in Europe today (less than in London and Paris) while historically the Düsseldorf area was the first access point for Japanese companies in good ol‘ Europe. When it comes to football Fortuna Düsseldorf cannot look back to a great history of Japanese football players. Shamefully enough the first Japanese soccer player in Bundesliga ever, Yasuhiko Okudera, started his career overseas at bitter rival 1. FC Cologne back in 1977.

Only a handful of Japanese player unmentioned, more recently it was Genki Omae who surfed on – what I like to call – rhe Kagawa-wave in Bundesliga. While Naohiro Takahara or Junichi Minamoto were exotic player at Eintracht Frankfurt a couple of years ago, after Shinji Kagawa splendidly integrated into Borussia Dortmund, every team was looking for a bargain. Omae was one of the latest „victims“ when Fortuna Düsseldorf found themselves back in the top flight of German football and sought for good players to build up a team that remains in the upper class. Long story short, he didn’t really participate in Fortuna’s campaign. Still having technical abilities – I was luckily enough to spectate his ball handling at a testing game – he couldn’t fight his way through the other team’s defenses. If you have watched J. League recently you might have noticed Omae returned on loan to his former club Shimizu S-Pulse after Düsseldorf’s relegated. In Shimizu he, again, is playing a part while Düsseldorf fails to compensate their losses due to injuries and should be begging for Omae in 2nd Bundesliga.

 

Just a little introduction to the club that is the topic of my posting. As I said – Fortuna Düsseldorf is my regular stand and when I visited the home match between F95 (in short) and FC St. Pauli – an underdog club hosted in the homonymous part of the city of Hamburg – I noticed a bunch of Japanese kids wearing training outfits of recently relegated Jubiló Iwata. As a Japanese guy, I got to know that day, confirmed the group was accompanied by former Iwata midfielder Toshiya Fujita and all of them were passing us in the hallway. This was two weeks ago.

This week I’ve been to the stadium again for the next home game (a sobering goalless draw) I bought the match day magazine and found an article about the Jubiló Iwata U18 team that I saw the last time:

One day before they landed at Düsseldorf airport for a soccer journey in Germany. The Group around youth coach Takeshi Oki went to the Düsseldorf match and the day after participated in a training session at the Düsseldorf youth high performance center. Later that afternoon they started a testing game marathon with clubs from the Düsseldorf surrounding, including the U19 teams of MSV Duisburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and netherland-based FC Utrecht. A game marathon which probably lasted a couple of days – there is no specific information about the circumstances in the article. Either you wonder or you don’t but the young Japanese men brought their opponents to their knees. The first match against MSV Duisburg was won 3:1, FC Utrecht shot one goal more ending the game at 3:2 for the Iwata youth and the match against the youth team of top tier and former Europe League participating Borussia Mönchengladbach ended 4:0 for the guest from the far east. Pretty spectacular you might think but every streak has an ending and their final testing match against the U19 of hosting Fortuna Düsseldorf ended 2:0 for the home side, costing their guests a pretty amazing series of wins.

Japanese youth teams are no dark horses in Düsseldorf. The annual, even traditional U19 Champions Trophy, held around Easter here in Düsseldorf, was won by a Japanese High School Selection in 2013.

 

This year the U19 Champions league trophy will take place from 17th to 21st April 2014 in Düsseldorf but I will not be able to attend as I will be in Japan watching several Japanese teams myself. But I will try to follow the tournament somehow. I hope that the Japanese High School Selection is able to defend their title and continue the rather successful story of Japanese football in Düsseldorf – even if it is not with Fortuna.

J3 League – Matchday 3

This week’s matchday can be described as a goalfest. 22 goals within all six matches on sunday afternoon brought high-class entertainment to the people, with three matches being broadcasted in television. Let’s start with the mother of all goalfest matches:

 

  • Grulla Morioka 6-1 J. League U22 Selection

The first home game for Northern Honshu side has been a total success. Not only did the first home attendance in J3 League surpass 3,000 visitors but taking a look at the result, pure dominance is the only thing that comes to my mind describing Grulla’s home strength. Sadly for the U22 Selection the first two were conceded within the first ten minutes by Akira Takase and in 9′ minute by Yusei Okada via penalty kick. On U22 side Nikki Havenaar already has a reputation as a card collector: Until now in every game he received a yellow card and I somehow have the feeling he is only called repeatedly because of his height of 1,97 meter as he sometimes seems to struggle against more speedy offensive players. Grulla’s tallest player is forward Ryota Doi with 1,90 meter who striked double finalizing the first half result to 4-0. He was also the one winning a head ball duel against Havenaar right before the 1-0. With the beginning of second half Kengo Nagai’s first J. League appearance came to an unpleasent ending. Having conceded four goals now Yohei Takaoka’s task was to do better in U22’s goal. And he did as he only had to get the ball out of the net twice. After Doi it was shortly-before substituted Kodai Sato who scored twice for home side Grulla Morioka. Again the double-strike took Sato less than ten minutes (76′, 83′). The single goal for the young guns was shot by Tomoya Koyamatsu in 68′ minute after a long pass of defender Yuto Uchida.

After losing 3-0 to FC Ryukyu in the season opener it is another catastrophic loss for the U22 Selection and until now the record win of J3 League.

After a 5 goal advantage win there is no doubt which team may present the player of the week. In my opinion it is Akira Takase who not only scored but drafted two goal with a great crossing pass first and a dance through the U22 defensive line afterwards.

 

  • Akita Blaublitz 2-2 Fukushima United FC

Apart from Morioka there is Blaublitz Akita, a Northern Honshu club with probably the most exhilirating mascot Blaugon. Blaugon, a blue dragon with the letter ‚B‘ as horns, not only supports the Akita side with all his enthusiasm but also harvests their everyday nourishment. Even though Akita shares its northern location with Morioka they heavily differ in their table standing, leaving Akita in the southern, not really warm area. Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Blaublitz with only one goal in two games ahead of matchday three. But today was different. Akita not only scored twice but also a third time, unfortunately outstripping their very own goalkeeper Kei Ishikawa. First it was Leonardo who nodded the Blaublitz’s in lead. Yet this lasted only a couple of minutes until Junya Kuno was the lucky boy kicking in a surpremely blocked goal kick attempt bei Shibahara. Headstrong seems to be the Akita offense as it was Miyoshi headed the Northern Tohoku side in lead again. The „third goal“ jinx was defense player Shinya Hatta whose fault only has been to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A free kick by Fukushima’s „Kim Kong“ was deflected into the goal with no real chance for Ishikawa.

The first Tohoku derby in J3 had no winner to present. The neighborhood battle between Grulla and Blaublitz will take place on April 13th in Akita.

 

  • Yokohama SCC 1-1 FC Machida Zelvia

I have to admit I am not very sure on anything to say about both clubs. Yokohama’s right to play as a professional or even semi-professional side was questioned on last episode on J-Talk podcast as YSCC is more like a local sports club and therefore attracts only little attention being. Being shadowed by famous Yokohama F. Marinos and fan-founded Yokohama FC with King Kazu in squad, SCC seems more like a team for soccer moms and their loved ones. Machida Zelvia on the other hand are at the moment totally in their target floating around the top table area. Still you have to be honest, YSCC was able to grow a little grass on their field keeping it in shape. Not like the battleground minefield in Nozuta Stadium. So having this in mind, I have no idea how this result at all might be possible. The match attendance was 1,819, proably more Zelvia then YSCC supporters, and goals of Akio Yoshida in 2′ and Machida forward Keisuke Endo in 22′ minute marked the final score of 1-1 already in first half. Questionable high light of the match was the yellow-red card that was given to Machida’s goalkeeper Toshiyasu Takahara for assaulting Sho Aota who doublessly overdid an attempt to reach the ball. Down to ten it was Machida creating the chances at the end of the match but after all I have the feeling Machida lost two important points to keep up with the top group. AND YSCC raised expectations a little with their second draw against a – for my understanding – superior team.

 

  • AC Nagano Parceiro 2-1 Zweigen Kanazawa

The top match of matchday three was definitely Nagano hosting Kanazawa at their home ground in Saku-shi – which looks formidable I have to say. Attandence cracked the 3,000 mark and what they saw was a very balanced match between both sides with only Parceiro captain Yuji Unozawa making the difference. Not only he created the best chances with a lovely „sloped“ (is this the right word?) shot attempt that only hit the outer post but scored twice, in 65′ and 79′ minute. The first goal was lifted, the second headed splendidly above Kanazawa’s Yoshinobu Harada. It is no wonder he was elected as JFL Player 2013. Kanazawa had a short period of time for hope after an Awatari equalizer in 74′ minute but Unozawa made the difference today.

If Takahashi and Unozawa come to their prime as the season goes on, they are for sure Naganos insurance for playing a big part in the promotion rally.

 

  • Fujieda MYF 2-2 FC Ryukyu

To be honest, I cannot watch any football league without having a club to „support“. In J. League Divsion 1 I have three clubs I follow for different obscure reasons. Because I do a trip to Okinawa in a month, which I planned for a certain time, there was no other club for me to follow than FC Ryukyu in J3 League. Last JFL season ended the team in lower midfield and so I didn’t expect much for this season. Winning 3-0 against the U22 Selection was a nice opener but Morioka showed that there might be much more to win against this youngster team that only trains a few hours a day before the match. Still Fujieda lost in a dramatic ralley 2-4 against the Selection which – if football was mathematics – might have been a reason for Ryukyu not to overestimate MYFC’s performance. First half did not prove this train of thoght wrong: Ryukyu defender Takahiro Urashima headed in 10′ minute. Shortly after Noritaka Fujisawa noticed Fujieda’s goalkeeper Il-Kyu Park was standing in-field and – after lovely being served by Fujieda defender Yuta Kutsukake – hit a long distance shot raising the result for the Okinawan side to 2-0. It was a half of pure dominance for Ryukyu said @GifuRichy who had a great day at Fujieda Sports Complex Park. The panorama is lovely…. I really wonder how the Bengara Boys lost control over the match. But with changing sides also the tables turned and Fujieda had some nice chances. At the end two goals gained Fujieda a worthwhile point against – then – table topping FC Ryukyu. Man of the Match was Masato Mizuki hitting in 58′ and 82′ minute. After equalizing Fujieda had a double chance blocked by keeper Kasahara first and defender Urashima second. On the other side of the pitch it was substituted Kenya Maeshiro who failed to shove the ball aside of Park. It was a fair result even though it was a top team losing two points against the bottom game.

Attandence on this matchday was even lower than last Ryukyu home game, which I hope will improve with the continuative season. Especially when I am visiting Ryukyu’s home game against Fukushima United, I want to see a lively crowd supporting their team in Okinawa! Go, Bengara Boys!

 

  • Gainare Tottori 1-0 SC Sagamihara

Gainare have waited a long time since winning the last time. 8 months as Stuart Smith knows. SC Sagamihara, with a 2-0 win against Yokohama SCC backing up the moral of the team, might have wished for a particpation of newly signed Naohiro Takahara. The former Bundesliga-player is supposed to bring the offensive lines back into business. Nothing really happened in first half. Chances were created and gambled away by incapable shot attempts by Gainare. On the other side Takuya Sugimoto was a real backup for the team, blocking a great head ball by SC defender Morimoto. In the end it was midfielder Eijiro Mori who made the difference in 74′ minute scoring the only goal in this match.

 

FC Ryukyu failed to keep up their winning streak against red lantern holder Fujieda MYFC. Grulla Morioka climbed the top of the table with a much improved goal difference ahead of the Okinawan side. The top group with 7 points is completed AC Nagano Parceiro. With only 1 point the table ends with Fujieda and Fukushima United after matchday 3.

This weeks matchday 4 already starts on Saturday as Zweigen Kanazawa hosts Yokohama SCC who might be able to show what they are capable of.

On sunday the U22 will play against Akita Blaublitz, Machida Zelvia welcomes Naohiro Takahara with SC Sagamihara and the top match will be FC Ryukyu against now leading Grulla Morioka in Naha. I am really looking forward to this match hopefully with the better end for the southerners!

J3 League – Matchday 2

My Matchday Review comes a little late. It has been an exciting week. Borussia Dortmund reached the quarter final of the European Champions League (and will play and probably lose against Real Madrid), Sanfrecce Hiroshima got an important win in the Asian CL against FC Seoul thanks to Shiotani and I keep wondering if this your Central Back will get his chance in the Japanese national team. Great guy and he shows at Sanfrecce what he is capable of at that young age.

Just as I complained last week that there is no chance to catch up the matches of J3 League the J. League listened to the voice of the people: The J3 Highlight homepage of course has been available some time before, but actually you need to know about its existence. So I have to thank Twitter and WordPress user J. Mirai for finding the page and letting the people and me know on Twitter.

The first matchday had some nice stories and surprises. It lies in the nature of the inaugural matchday that there are a lot of premieres. I listed some in my post before. But matchday two doesn’t need to hide behind his older brother. So let us take a look at last weekends J3 matches:

  • FC Machida Zelvia 0:0 AC Nagano Parceiro

In front of 3,416 visitors this top match started on 1 PM (JST) and those attending were not to be disappointed.  Before the match Keisuke Endo was decorated for the first ever J3 League goal which he shot right from the start in 1′ minute of gametime on matchday one.  A vivid match between both sides ended goalless but as Fortress Nozuta pointed out, both teams had their chances, leaving Zelvia with the biggest miss as Otake, 6 meter right in front of the goal, hammered a ball into the sky. Yet goalless the highlights show some decent attacks that might have been played on some upper league matches, too. Probably because Machida is a recent J2 side, and Nagano an inevitable upcoming J2 team.

  • SC Sagamihara 2:0 Yokohama Sports & Culture Club

There are derbys you don’t want to miss. Manchester United vs. Manchester City, Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Dortmund, AC vs. Inter Milan… every league has their particular derbys. The J. League knows that and for some reason there are Kanagawa derbys almost everyday. Kanagawa prefecture hosts Kawasaki Frontale, Yokohama F. Marinos, FC Yokohama, FC Machida Zelvia, Shonan Bellmare (probably I even forgot some teams I am not aware of yet) and both SC Sagamihara and Yokohama SCC. The game kicked-off with wonderful weather and Kohei Hattori of Sagamihara had the first real chance when a distance shot from 15 meter could only be diverted by YSCC-keeper Takahashi. At that time the hero of YSCC then becomes the jinx as he diverted a corner kick of SC captain Yuya Sano in his own net. The lead of Sagamihara in 55′ minute never seemed to be in harm so Miyukis long distance shot in 94′ minute only helped Sagamiharas goal difference statistics.

  • Zweigen Kanazawa 1:1 Gainare Tottori

If Machida vs. Nagano has been the top match of matchday two, this one is probably the less loved older brother of the top matches. Gainare as a former J2 participant is of course one of the hottest candidates for promotion, yet had to suffer a break with the old squad. Former Forward Masao Tsuji of all things moved to now opposing Kanazawa side. One of those stories only football writes: it was Tsujis headball that initiated Ota’s equalizer in 59′ minute costing Gainare two important points at this early stage in the league. Gainare’s goal in 29′ minute – the result of a corner kick – was of no use. Kanazawa might have even won, if Kazuaki Mawatari had not run for Shogo Omachi’s slowball in the latter part of the game.

  • Fujieda MYFC 2:4 J. League U22 Selection

Fujieda was crushed on matchday one with 3 goals down against Machida Zelvia. Likewise the U22 Selection didn’t look too well on their first attempt in J3 League against Okinawan side FC Ryukyu. The game ended the same for the youngsters: 0-3. The bad defence on both sides raised expectations for something to count and both teams didn’t fail to cope. In first half it didn’t look like Fujieda had much to reply to the offensive style of play of the U22 Selection. In 16′ minute Kimura netted the ball bringing the young guns in lead. 7 minutes later, after an Akino corner, it was closely-2-meter-giant Nikki Havenaar with his first ever goal for the Selection. No need to say it has been a head ball. The second half started way better for the Fujieda side as an counter attack resulted in an reduction of the teams deficit. Nikki Havenaar received his second yellow card in the second game straight which might underline the impression that U22 Selection was struggleing after changing sides. Anyhow, substituted Koyamatsu restored the old result with his goal in 76′ minute. Seeing the replay I have to admit it was a really great attempt by the young boys in white. In 85′ minute Takahiro Tanio hits the goal after an almost 1:1 copy of the first Fujieda counter attack but, little hope for the purple ones, as Tamura shoots the final goal with the whistle blowing.

Both teams lack a good defense, even though with Nikki Havenaar, Yuto Uchida and Yuto Mori the U22 Selection has kind of a equipoised axis with 2 games experience on their back. Fujieda’s attempt to stabalize the defence by moving back Forward Mitsuru Mansho didn’t work that well. With losing both games Fujieda finds themselves on the bottom end of the table with a goal difference of -5. They need to do a lot better to compete the upcoming matchday against FC Ryukyu. Speaking of my favorite from Okinawa…

  • FC Ryukyu 2:0 Blaublitz Akita

I try not to celebrate too much now but, as FC Ryukyu is the only team having won both games until now, they are lone topping the J3 League table with 6 points and a goal difference of +5, having caught no goal at all. After beating the U22 Selection in the first game manager Norihori Satsukawa found no reason to change anything in the starting XI. The first half was pretty competetive with a great goal chance wasted by Kazuhiro Kawata on account of Blaublitz. The long-distance shot directly after didn’t threaten FC goalkeeper Kasahara at all. The free kicks on Ryukyu’s side were kicked splendidly by 21-year-old Keisuke Tanabe yet the offensive line was unable to make something out of it. Has it been the triangle Fujisawa, Obata and Aoki in the last game which brought the Okinawan side in lead, this time Fujisawa served Daichi Okumiya on the right-hand side well who hammered the 1-0 lead in. Almost no chance for Ishikawa between Akitas goal bars. Another of those amazing stories is the one of Yu Tomidokoro – the 23-year-old Midfielder with a long family and a short surname. Being brought in for Tomori it only lasted a couple of seconds after he received Ishikawa’s miserable goal kick and sledge-hammered (as a climax to „hammered“) a long distance shot right under the bar.

Is there anything that might derogate this victory lifting the FC on the table top? Well, yet playing pretty nice football there were only 945 visitors to the homeside. Regarding the fact that Akita has the longest trip down to Okinawa yet there don’t seem so many people in Naha wanting to support their J. League club. Strangely in JFL the moderate game attendance topped 2,000 visitors, Ryukyu in J3 League failed to reach this number. With Fujieda on this sunday there is another team that might struggle against Ryukyu’s offensive style of play. It will be unlikely that Ryukyu won’t take all three points back to their lovely island and I am curious to follow the Okinawan side on this sunday.

GO BENGARA BOYS!!!

  • Fukushima United FC 0:2 Grulla Morioka

Two teams I wouldn’t describe as competetors for the J. League Division 2 promotion, still interesting to see how the former newly build Regional league team from Morioka plays against teams that planned to promote to J2 all along. Fukushima United ended on 14th place in last JFL season and so it was no surprise this might be a match at eye level. With rainy weather the attendance was still above 2,000. Fukushima had a furious start with two good chances after a corner and free kick. In 69′ minute things started to get interesting. Fukushima Ryota Okada saw straight red when taking down Takase in the box. Even though Okada was given yellow in first half, referee Shimizu evaluated the roughness of Okada’s foul to give the first ever red card in J3 League histroy to the 25 year old. The penalty was kicked by Toshikazu Soya who shot straight onto falling Fukushima keeper Tomoyasu Naito. The ball hit his feet and diverted into the goal for Grullas first league goal. In the additional time it was earlier fouled Akira Takase who closed the curtain of the match with his 2-0 shot.

Okinawa side FC Ryukyu tops the table. Next week they can extend their win streak to three games at bottom table Fujieda MYFC. The top group of Kanazawa, Machida, Moiroka and Nagano will be seperated as Parceiro hosts Zweigen and Grulla might struggle against strengthened J. League U22-Selection.

I really expect another nice J3 League matchday upcoming sunday.

J3 League – Matchday 1

When it was rumored that the Japanese JFA wants to establish a new professional third-tier league in Japan to replace the semi-professional Japan Football League I was pretty curious. As the DFB opened up a third-tier in Germany in 2009 with the „Dritte Liga“ – that unfortunately is pretty unregarded under both 1st and 2nd Bundesliga division – I was interested to see how the JFA wants to raise interest to this new league in Japan.

They did pretty well – I think – letting some of the best established JFL clubs promoting into the J3 League roster on the one hand, on the other hand promoting Grulla Morioka (a successful club from a regional league) and on the… third hand… adding the J. League U22-Selection.

The U22-Selection has an extensive squad of 89 youngster from both J1 and J2. Those young players, often sitting on bench or aren’t playing at all for their club on a regular basis, will be chosen every friday to join the U22 team in J3 and competing in a professional league against professional teams. This way the JFA aims to develop a well-trained and experienced team for the upcoming Olympic summer games in Brazil 2016. After many questioned raised about this U22 team, last weekend we finally got some answers.

On March 9th, finally, there was the first kick-off in the new established J3 League. On 13:00 Japanese Time Zone 5 of the 6 matches started and it didn’t take long until history was written:

  • Machida Zelvia 3:0 Fujieda MYFC

Straight after the game started it was  Machida’s Keisuke Suzuki to hit the target in the first minute of gametime and therefore score the first goal of J3 League history. As it sounds on Fortress Nozuta there was no chance for the club from Fujieda. As a former J2 participant there is no doubt that Machida Zelvia has best chances to return to the league they belong to. But the season has just started and predictions – especially in J. League – are pretty worthless.

  • Yokohama Sports and Culture Club 1:1 Blaublitz Akita

Before the J3 League started I tried to follow the preparations of the clubs and was pretty sure Blaublitz Akita might battle with those clubs you might refer as favorites to promotion. Yet I don’t know how to review the draw against Yokohama SCC. Akita took the lead after 18 minutes when 28 year-old Brazillian striker Leonardo Augusto Vieira Moreira scored but in second half the number 3 club in Yokohama equalized with Norimasa Nakanishi hitting the target.

  • SC Sagamihara 0:4 Zweigen Kanazawa

I have to admit I am a little biased with this game. I personally like the Kanazawa club – though I am not sure why. As I said I tried to follow the preparation of most clubs Kanazawa gave me the feeling that they really want to inform me about what is happening with the club. Everday there were a lot of news and the results against several University and High School teams were promising. Yet I don’t know how to evaluate Sagamihara. Sagamihara wrote history themselves as Tsukasa Morimoto got the first yellow card in J3 League history, while Kanazawa is record holder of the – current – scoring record in a single game. All 4 goals were scored 24 minutes in the second half, tearing Sagamihara apart. Those wanting to promote surely need to struggle against Kanazawa.

  • Gainare Tottori 0:0 Grulla Morioka

Gainare is one of the clubs that cannot deny the role as a favorite to promotion – apart from Machida Zelvia that is. Being relegated from J2 by losing the relegation games against Kamatamare Sanuki, left the Shikoku side promoting to J2 for the first time in their history. Gainare found itself as one of the first-known participants of the inaugural J3 League season and now started against the one and only promoted regional league club Grulla Morioka. A very sympathetic team from northern Honshu. But to be honest – I wouldn’t have thought Gainare would not win against Morioka in the first place. I read that they lost some of their best offensive players but still Morioka needed to build up from a regional league to a professional team skipping the now 4th-tiered JFL. Additionally, they were pretty unlucky by losing a new-signed player twice: Yuta Echigo, former J1 participant Vegalta Sendai, retreated rom his contract due to personal reasons and then Kotaro Kawasato who suffers from a „growing pain syndrome“ (I am not sure about the correct term at all) left the Morioka side to fill two slots again. Still it seems like Grulla was well-fortified and Gainare had no chance to crack the wall.

  • AC Nagano Parceiro 1:0 Fukushima United FC

Nagano was kind of the shooting star club in JFL. Being promoted to JFL in 2010 they ended second twice in 2011 and 2012. In 2013 the finished first but were not allowed to promote to J2 due to missed JFA requirements. The club wants to finish building a new stadium in early 2015 to finally promote to J2 – the big aim. It also seems like the AC has some generous and wealty supporters as in mid February they received an anonymous donation of 1.000.000 Yen. Though having the best chances of being promoted (e.g. they signed JFL 2013 top scorer Shunta Takahashi from FC Ryukyu) on the opening matchday only Takahashi scored for Parceiro. It will be interesting to follow the team this season which is likely to end in the promotion battle.

  • FC Ryukyu 3:0 J. League U22-Selection

The probably most-awaited match on this opening matchday was the game between Okinawan representative FC Ryukyu hosting the first U22-Selection in 2014. Ryukyu on the one hand had a big change as the squad was almost completely renewed. Additionally they had to cope the loss of Takahashi moving to Nagano and signed Japanese players from pretty underclassed clubs. Rei Shimamura came from CDE EF Zona 5 (3rd Spanish league) or Noritaka Fujisawa from Victoria SC 06 Griesheim (Hesse League/Germany – 5th tier). Luckily the game was broadcasted by Sky Perfect and thanks to the internet I was able to watch the game almost entirely.

It started with a pretty well offensive style of play by the young guns of U22 selection. Often it was the right side with Kobayashi moving towards the outer goal-line, bringing the ball into the box – luckily for Ryukyu – never to the teammate. After half an hour or so the tables have turned and Ryukyu got their chances, yet never being a harm to Kyoto Sanga’s young keeper Yamada. That changed in second half. On Ryukyu’s left side there was the triangle of – former Griesheim-based – Noritaka Fujisawa, Junpei Obata and forward Shota Aoki. So it was no surprise that, after a great passing game with Aoki, Obata got his first J3 League goal in 55th minute. 20 minutes later we had the next piece of J3 League history: Obata scored as the first and currently only player in J3 League twice. Aokis goal in 78th minute ended the match for the selection completely.

What is the story for the young guns. First they – until now – never got a chance at their parent club. Having the chance to shine against lower-quality clubs in J3 was probably raising enthusiasm on their hand and apart from a lot of bad passings they were doing nicely. But what broke their neck in my opinion is tha fact that those players never played together before. FC Ryukyu had a complete – not too successful though – preparation while the U22 first met on Friday/Saturday before the match. and – regarding their age – don’t have the experience to stand against a team like Ryukyu.

The U22-selection is probably the most interesting part of the new J3 League. It wasn’t a really promosing game against FC Ryukyu but next week they head to Fujieda MYFC. With a new 16-player squad out of those 89 available they meet a team that, too, suffered from a 0:3 loss.

I enjoyed the game a lot and hope the next match day will be as exciting as the first has been. Unfortunatly media coverage is pretty crude for the league so I hope that at least the highlights will be shown somewhere on Youtube.

2014: The J3 League story begins…