Urawa in the box seat as Gamba begin to choke

Japan Soccer

Gamba Osaka fans.
Gamba Osaka fans

Urawa Reds are once again four points clear of second placed Gamba Osaka, following Gamba's shock 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Yokohama F. Marinos.

A near-capacity crowd of 19,419 turned out at Expo '70 Stadium on September 16 but the majority went home stunned as a brace from Daisuke Sakata dented Gamba's title aspirations.

A day earlier, a crowd of 22,675 turned out in Hiroshima - their largest gate of the season, as Urawa easily disposed of hosts Sanfrecce 4-2, with livewire striker Tatsuya Tanaka taking his goal tally to eight goals in twelve games since returning from injury.

At the other end of the table, Ventforet Kofu put up a valiant display in the so-called Mount Fuji derby before ultimately going down 2-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 18,101 fans at Nihondaira Stadium.

With Omiya Ardija losing 2-0 to Jubilo Iwata, both clubs look doomed to spend the rest of the season in the relegation zone, given that Oita Trinita have pulled five points clear of the bottom three, following their most recent 2-2 draw with Kawasaki Frontale.

Jubilo Iwata coach Adilson resigns

Former fan favourite Adilson resigned as coach of Jubilo Iwata in the aftermath of Jubilo's 1-0 defeat to local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse in the Shizuoka derby on September 1.

The Brazilian had already been under pressure following Jubilo's first derby loss of the season in May, and his propensity to chop and change his starting eleven meant that Jubilo struggled to gain any momentum throughout the season.

Former assistant Atsushi Uchiyama has been promoted to first team coach, and he oversaw a 2-0 away win over strugglers Omiya Ardija in his first match in charge, in a match notable for the return to the starting eleven of midfielder Yoshiaki Ota and striker Robert Cullen, both of whom had fallen out of favour with Adilson.

2007 has been a difficult year for Jubilo Iwata, with midfielder Naoya Kikuchi sacked by the club midway through the season after admitting that he had sexual relations with a fifteen year old schoolgirl.

AFC Champions LeagueBoth of Japan's representatives reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League, with Urawa Reds drawn against defending Asian champions Jeonbuk Motors FC.

Urawa won the first leg of their quarter-final, with goals from Makoto Hasebe and Tatsuya Tanaka propelling them into a two goal lead, before a late strike from Choi Jin-Cheul pulled back what could be a crucial away goal for the K-League side.

Elsewhere Kawasaki Frontale will be confident of progression after they held Iranian side Sepahan to a 0-0 draw at the Foolad Shahr Stadium in Esfahan.

The return legs take place on September 26.

Japan National Team

The Japan National Team's recent tour game tour of Europe was a success, with Japan declared the winner of a four nation tournament also featuring hosts Austria, Switzerland and Chile.

Japan held Austria to a 0-0 draw in front of a capacity crowd at the Woerthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt before succumbing in a penalty shoot-out, with Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuji Nakazawa missing the crucial spot-kick.

Japan then came from two goals down to beat Switzerland 4-3, scoring four second half goals thanks to a brace of penalties from Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura, a header from Seiichiro Maki and a winning goal from substitute Kisho Yano.

Japan National Women's TeamDespite an impressive display, Nadeshiko Japan failed to progress to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup in China.

Japan opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw against England. In front of a pro-England crowd, Aya Miyama opened the scoring for Japan with a neatly struck free-kick, but Japan appeared to be heading for defeat when England's Kelly Smith scored two late goals. Miyama was the hero, however, stepping up to score a stoppage time equaliser with another brilliant free-kick.

In their next match Japan scored a stoppage time winner through Yuki Nagasato to record a narrow 1-0 victory over Argentina, before reigning world champions Germany proved too strong, knocking Japan out of the tournament with a 2-0 victory.

Japan Olympic Team

After grinding out a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia in oppressive humidity in Damman on September 8, Japan returned to the National Stadium in Tokyo four days later to edge passed Qatar with a 1-0 victory in their lastest qualifying game for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

FC Tokyo midfielder Yohei Kajiyama scored the only goal after just four minutes, as Japan overcame the sending off of Hosei University midfielder Takuya Honda to take their tally to seven points from the opening three games.

Only the group winner progresses to the Olympic tournament, and coach Yasuharu Sorimachi has declared himself satisfied with his team's performances so far. The gloss was taken off this win, however, by the news that Yohei Kajiyama had suffered a serious injury that will rule him out for the rest of the qualifying tournament.

Urawa in the box seat as Gamba begin to choke.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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