J1 Matchweek 7 Viewer’s Guide

Match to Watch

The fight for the third and fourth spots in the table looks like it’s setting up to be a doozy. There are so many good teams in the league and, assuming Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus keep up their title fight, only two more spots to get into the AFC Champions League.

Right now, Sagan Tosu and Cerezo Osaka occupy third and fourth in the table, and guess who play this weekend? That’s right - Sagan Tosu and Cerezo Osaka.

This match will be just the latest test of Sagan’s perfect defense. They still have not conceded this season, but they’ve never faced an attack quite like the one Cerezo is going to throw at them. Cerezo rank second in the league in goals and it hasn’t been a product of brilliant finishing. The brilliant build up play of the Osaka club creates constant pressure on opposing defenses that will really test Sagan.

Which team is the favorite for third place this season? 90 minutes at Yanmar Stadium Nagai will tell us.

Matchweek 7 - Match to Watch: Sagan Tosu vs Cerezo Osaka

Player to Watch

The Sagan Tosu defense, obviously, gets a lot of plaudits. When you don’t let in a single goal all season, the spotlight and applause will rightly be on you. And Sagan have done it in large part by limiting chances and frantic work to ensure there won’t be opportunities for the opposition on the counterattack. But even the best defenses give up chances on occasion, and when Sagan have, Park Il-Gyu has been there to rescue them.

The South Korean goalkeeper joined Sagan in the last season and, right now, he’s looking like one of the shrewdest signings in the league. He’s been up to the challenge literally every time, making some tough saves look easy and also making some jaw dropping saves. On top of that, he’s slid right into the team and showed great command of his back line, not taking any time to adjust and helping them perform to the extraordinary level they have.

Cerezo are going to make things difficult on Sagan and there will be chances. If Sagan are going to keep up their perfect defensive mark, or pick up any points, Park will need to be at his best. If form is any indication, he should be up for the challenge.

Matchweek 7 - Player to Watch: Park Il-Gyu

Storyline to Watch

Gamba Osaka entered the season with high expectations. They were runners up in the league and the cup a year ago and made some nice signings to bolster the side. But while the rest of the league has played as many as seven games so far, Gamba have only played one due to positive COVID tests that sidelined them for the health and safety of everyone.

Now, Gamba return to the pitch for the first time since the season’s opening weekend with a trip to Hiroshima. What will their fitness be like after such a long layoff? Will they need some time to get some of the rust off? Is it going to take some time to build cohesion in their play?

All of these are questions that teams face at the beginning of every season, but now Gamba is facing them in Matchweek 7, against a team that has answered them. We’re going to learn a lot about Gamba in the next few weeks, both where they stand right now and what their outlook for the season is as we get our first extended looks at them.


J1 Matchweek 6 Recap: Top teams pick up wins heading into international break

Matchweek 6 represented the end of the opening part of the season, in a way. With the international break to follow, this was going to wrap up the start of the season and provide a good snapshot of where teams are. It was also a weekend of matches that would stick with teams for a few weeks because of that upcoming break.

So who finished the opening portion of the season on a high? And who is going into the break in need of making some changes?

Kashima Antlers 0, Nagoya Grampus 1

Nagoya put their perfect start to the season on the line when they went to Kashima, but once again, their defense was more than up to the task. They shut down a potent Antlers attack, letting them have the ball, but taking away all dangerous passing lanes as goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak was little more than a spectator. With the defense predictably stout, Nagoya needed just one goal to win, and they got it when Sho Inagaki got a loose ball at the top of the box in the 59th minute and struck it just inside the post. A late Kashima red card ended any threat of a comeback and Grampus extended their win streak to start the season to six games.

Sagan Tosu 0, Avispa Fukuoka 0

Nagoya have given up one goal all year, but they don’t have the best defense in the league. Sagan Tosu do. And that defense extended its perfect start to the season with a sixth shutout in as many contests over the weekend. They did not allow Avispa to put a single shot on goal all game, but unfortunately for Sagan, they were unable to pick up all three points due to some fine goalkeeping by Masaaki Murakami. The Avispa backstop denied Sagan on four occasions and, on another, a Sagan goal was incorrectly flagged for offside so the home side had to settle for a single point.

Urawa Reds 0, Kawasaki Frontale 5

Frontale dropped points for the first time all season in miweek action, but they made it clear that they were unshaken by their first stumble. The defending champions came out flying and nearly went ahead twice in the early going, but it took until just before halftime before Yu Kobayashi finally broke the deadlock with a good header from 12 yards. Three minutes into the second half, Leandro Damião doubled the Frontale lead with a spectacular goal, taking the ball down on his chest then hitting a brilliant twisting shot off the half volley. Reo Hatate then scored, before Kobayashi added his second and Yasuto Wakizaka knocked home No. 5 as Frontale wrapped up a phenomenal performance to put them right back to their winning ways.

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 3, Vissel Kobe 4

Days after stunning previously perfect Frontale in stoppage time, Vissel pulled another shocker over the weekend. An Anderson Lopes hat trick gave Consadole a 3-0 lead after 46 minutes and had them home side looking like sure winners at the Sapporo Dome, but the third goal seemed to just mark the start of the match for Vissel. First, Hotaru Yamaguchi scored in the 53rd minute to get the visitors on the scoreboard, then Kyogo Furuhashi intercepted a backpass, rounded the keeper and finished to start the Vissel comeback. 11 minutes after falling behind by three, Vissel had cut the Sapporo lead to one. By the 67th minute, Vissel were even. Once again, they were in alone on the goalkeeper and this time when they tried to round Kojiro Nakano, he committed a foul for a penalty. Furuhashi buried the spot kick and Vissel had done it. They’d come all the way back from 3-0. But they were not content with a draw and three minutes from time, Daiju Sasaki went on a terrific run that completely unlocked the Consa defense before dragging the ball back for Yamaguchi, who scored with his first touch to take an incredible three points from three goals down for a Vissel team that is nothing short of exhilarating right now.

FC Tokyo 2, Vegalta Sendai 1

An early goal by Koji Hachisuka had Vegalta dreaming of a crucial away result at the Ajinomoto Stadium, but as soon as the visitors scored, FC Tokyo stepped on the gas pedal. Two minutes after falling behind, FC Tokyo got even through a scorching 25-yard strike from Kyosuke Tagawa. Then, just before halftime, Diego Oliveira brought the ball down with one touch, skinned a defender with his second, then slid the ball just inside the post with his third touch for what would prove to be the winning goal as FC Tokyo stretched their unbeaten streak to three games.

Kashiwa Reysol 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 2

It took just over three minutes for S-Pulse to take a quick away lead, as Yoshinori Suzuki got on the end of a corner kick and directed a ball on frame that Kim Seung-gyu will feel that he should have saved. Unfortunately for Reysol, he did not keep it out and S-Pulse were in front. That lead would double before the half hour mark as Thiago Santana got free in front of goal and headed home to make it 2-0 S-Pulse. Reysol fought back, scoring through Yuta Kamiya, but that is all they managed on a rainy night in Kashiwa as S-Pulse got their first win since the opening weekend and Reysol dropped their fourth straight.

Oita Trinita 1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3

It took a while for this one to get going. A Douglas Vieira header off the crossbar accounted for most of the first half action, but the second half was nonstop action. Shun Nagasawa put Oita Trinita just after the break with a terrific header, but the lead held for a mere 13 minutes. Toshihiro Aoyama equalized with a gorgeous looping header, then Sanfrecce just kept building momentum. More possession, more chances, but it began to look like they would not find a winner. That is until the 87th minute, when Yuta Imazu weighted a perfect pass for Hayao Kawabe to run onto, and Kawabe finished coolly to put the visitors in front. Shun Ayukawa added a stoppage time tally to wrap up the win and Sanfrecce walked out of The Big Eye with a comeback and three well-earned points in their pocket.

Tokushima Vortis 2, Yokohama FC 1

The battle of two winless teams went the way of the newly promoted Vortis, as they just edged out a Yokohama FC side still in search of their first point of the season. Both sides had opportunities in the early going, with phenomenal chances just barely not lighting up the scoreboard, but Vortis did go ahead in the 42nd minute courtesy of a Ryuji Sugimoto own goal. Yutaro Hakamata got Yokohama even in the 58th minute when his powerful header found the back of the net on a corner kick, but the key moment in the match came 15 minutes later. Vortis were a threat on the counterattack from the beginning and they finally got loose 17 minutes from time when Taisei Miyashiro was played in alone on goal. His angle wasn’t great, wide on the left, but he deftly chipped the oncoming goalkeeper to score the winning goal and give Vortis a solid five points from six points in their return to the top flight. Yokohama, meanwhile, are in real trouble and will need to start picking up points or relegation is going to become a serious fear.

Shonan Bellmare 0, Cerezo Osaka 0

The one thing you’ve been able to count on when Cerezo Osaka play this season is goals. They score a ton and they are prone to letting some in too. Their trip to Hiratsuka did not disappoint for action, as both they and Shonan Bellmare created plenty of chances, but Cerezo were not able to turn any of their 11 shots on goal, while Shonan only put three of their 16 on frame as the teams had to settle for a surprising scoreless draw.



J1 Matchweek 6 Viewer’s Guide: Yokohama FC and Tokushima get a big opportunity

Match to Watch

The start of the season has not gone as planned for Yokohama FC and Tokushima Vortis. Both teams find themselves in the relegation zone, but that just means when they meet on Sunday, they have a big opportunity to pick up three key points.

After a solid first top flight season in 2020, the Fulie hoped to get a little better in this campaign and establish themselves in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, but after five matches they are still without a point. The league’s worst defense is the biggest culprit, but they have to get better in the attack too.

Things have gone a little better for Vortis with two draws and a decent defense in their first season since getting promoted, but they are still without a win. The good news in Tokushima is the young Yuki Kakita is off to a good start with two goals, so they have someone to give them a spark up front.

Will Kakita be enough to deliver Vortis a long-awaited first victory of the campaign? Or will Yokohama FC find more of the form they showed a season ago and not just get their first point, but that first win? If these teams are going to be in the relegation fight to the end, how they perform against their fellow battlers might determine who stays in the top flight and who goes down.

Player to Watch

Ryotaro Araki may be the most exciting young player in the league this season. The 19-year-old has been spectacular on the outside of the Kashima Antlers midfield and already has four of the Ibaraki side’s five goals on the campaign—an outstanding output in just four matches, especially for a player withdrawn behind the frontline. Araki has also been influential in Kashima’s ball progression, possession retention, and solid defensive showing so far, turning himself into a cornerstone of this team’s play.

This weekend, Kashima take on Nagoya Grampus, who have won every match they’ve played in this young campaign and have only conceded once. To put it simply, this is going to be a very tall task for Kashima and if they are going to win, they’re going to need Araki to be excellent against Nagoya.

Storyline to Watch

It’s a given that the teams at the top of the table have been good. But a look at the top six and you’ll find teams who are all undefeated in their last three matches. There are only three draws in those 18 matches too, so the teams at the top aren’t just grinding out results - they’re racking up wins.

Of course, it’s still early and a good three matches can turn things very quickly. But keep an eye on those top six and see if they can stay hot and pull away from the field. Doing so could not only set up a dramatic fight for the title but also the top four race for AFC Champions League qualification.



Broadcasting of the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE in Malaysia and Brunei

J.LEAGUE announced that the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE will be available for viewing through the following broadcasting network and channels.

The agreement was reached due to the addition of Malaysian player Hadi Fayyadh to Azul Claro Numazu from this season, and due to the surge in demand for viewing from Fayyadh’s home country of Malaysia.

Broadcasting is beginning from the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE Sec.2 match between Azul Claro Numazu and FC Imabari on Saturday March 20, 2021.

Country/Region : Malaysia and Brunei
Competition : 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J3 LEAGUE
Broadcasting matches : All matches of Azul Claro Numazu (28 matches)
Broadcasting network : Astro
Scheduled Broadcasting channel : Astro Arena Channel 801 & 802 HD, Astro GO

Further announcements will be made upon determination of additional overseas broadcasters in future.



J1 Matchweek 5 Recap: Vissel Kobe stuns Kawasaki Frontale to leave one perfect team remaining

Kawasaki Frontale looked unbeatable and, to be fair, they are still unbeaten. But they are no longer perfect, because Vissel Kobe snatched a point from them in a major statement from the Kansai side. That means the number of perfect teams left in this MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season is down to one - Nagoya Grampus. 

Let’s take a swing around Matchweek 5 and see that, and more.

Vissel Kobe 1, Kawasaki Frontale 1

Frontale were quick to start this match and could have taken a first half lead, but a couple open headers missed the mark and kept Vissel in the contest. Leandro Damião started the second half by finally putting a header on frame and scoring, but VAR ruled the goal out for offside earlier in the move and, once again, Vissel were still hanging around. The Brazilian striker would not be denied, though, in the 72nd minute. After Vissel goalkeeper Daiya Maekawa’s long ball forward was headed back toward midfield, Damião took a terrific first touch, turned, and fired for a spectacular goal just inside the opposition half that caught the goalkeeper out. After all their good chances went missing, Frontale finally had a lead from out of nowhere. But Vissel knew they just had to defend well enough to limit Frontale’s chances, which they had done, and then take advantage of just one chance, and in stoppage time they did that. Ryo Hatsuse’s pace got him to the end line, where he crossed for Ryuho Kikuchi, whose header found the bottom corner of the net to lift the home crowd out of their seats. With that, Vissel had taken a point from the defending champions and made a statement of their own - they are emerging as contenders.

Nagoya Grampus 3, Yokohama FC 0

Nagoya entered this match as big favorites against points-less Yokohama and the match went largely as expected. The home side were on the front foot from the jump, nearly scoring after the quarter-hour mark and just before halftime, with a penalty shout in the middle. But their dominance paid off after the break as Yutaka Yoshida raced downfield before hitting a perfect pass for a sliding Naoki Maeda to tap in at the back post. Mateus doubled the Grampus lead minutes later when he got to a rebound and blasted it into the top of the netting before Ryogo Yamasaki nodded him the final goal from a few inches out after a beautiful floated cross from Yuki Soma made it easy on him. And with that, Nagoya were still perfect on the season, while Yokohama FC will continue their search for their first points of the campaign.

F.C.Tokyo 3, Shonan Bellmare 2

Shonan Bellmare got off to a quick start in Tokyo, with Yuki Ohashi’s phenomenal dribbling unraveling the defense and leaving Naoki Yamada with the finish for an early goal. F.C.Tokyo responded with goals from Kyosuke Tagawa and Diego Oliveira to take the lead, but Shonan did not fold and in the 79th minute, they got even. A gorgeous backheel from Ryo Takahashi started the move then three passes later the ball was right back on Takahashi’s foot in front of goal for the finish of a beautiful team goal. But, just like Shonan fought back from losing their lead, so did F.C.Tokyo. Whereas Shonan did it with elegance, Tokyo went scrappy, dumping the ball into the box then fighting for the header, then the second ball, where Tsuyoshi Watanabe scored to deliver the winning goal.

Sagan Tosu 2, Kashiwa Reysol 0

Sagan Tosu’s fantastic start to the season has been on the back of their outstanding defense, and that defense held up again with Reysol visiting. They absolutely shut down the Reysol attack and then turned things over to Daichi Hayashi. The striker got things going in the 29th minute when he raced in behind the defense to latch onto a long ball and beat the keeper 1v1 for the opening goal. The clinical Hayashi then made it a brace in the second half, which was more than enough for a sensational defense that still has not conceded a goal this season en route to third place in the table.

Yokohama F·Marinos 1, Tokushima Vortis 0

Marinos have been getting better and better as the season has gone on, turning their season opener loss into a second match draw, then rolling off win after win since. That continued on Wednesday, as did Daizen Maeda’s red-hot scoring streak. The striker took the ball off Shota Fukuoka’s foot at the center circle in the 10th minute then raced towards goal, finishing calmly for his league-leading sixth goal of the season and giving Marinos the lead. From there, the home side was dominant and while they probably will feel that they should have scored more, they were never under threat as they picked up yet another win.

Cerezo Osaka 1, Oita Trinita 0

Cerezo Osaka delivered their third straight win, but it did not come easily. While they had the balance of play in the first half, Trinita carried it in the second half and nearly went ahead on multiple occasions, including in the 80th minute when Seigo Kobayashi rattled the crossbar. But Cerezo weathered the Trinita storm and in the 87th minute, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto hit a screamer that hit the inside of the post and found the back of the net for a terrific goal to extend their winning streak.

Avispa Fukuoka 1, Kashima Antlers 0

The contest at Level-5 Stadium turned in the 36th minute when Ikuma Sekigawa was shown a red card for a tackle that the referee judged to have been reckless. From that point on, Fukuoka dominated and nearly went ahead on several occasions. Kashima Antlers hung on valiantly down a man, but they finally broke five minutes from the final whistle when Yuya Yamagishi’s gorgeous chested ball set up Takeshi Kanamori for a clinical finish that won Fukuoka all three points.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 0

Sanfrecce welcomed S-Pulse to Edion Stadium Hiroshima as an undefeated team, and they sent S-Pulse home as a still-undefeated team. The purple-clad boys were aggressive from the opening whistle and played most of the first half in the S-Pulse third, but they just couldn’t find a goal to match their excellent play. The second half was more of the same so when Hayato Araki finished a mad scramble in the box by knocking the ball home in the 59th minute, it was justice. Sanfrecce had the goal they deserved and while the rest of the match mirrored the first - dominant play without a goal - Araki’s goal was all they needed for victory.

Urawa Reds 0, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0

This match may have ended scoreless, but it was hardly boring. Consadole was especially outstanding, demanding several excellent saves from Shusaku Nishikawa, while Takuro Kaneko also hit the post. Urawa Reds were not without a few chances of their own, but like his opposite number, Kojiro Nakano made some great saves of his own to ensure this match would end in a stalemate.



J1 Matchweek 5 Viewer’s Guide: Vissel Kobe take a swipe at the throne

Match to Watch

Vissel Kobe suffered their first loss of the season in Matchweek 4, but even then did not put in a bad shift. They were simply stymied by the Nagoya Grampus defense, which is common for teams that come up against Massimo Ficcadenti’s side. Otherwise, there has been a lot to like about Vissel’s campaign, with Douglas providing a centerpoint of their attack and a smart, cohesive unit behind him.

But how good are Vissel Kobe? We’re about to find out.

Nothing tests a team in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE like a clash with Kawasaki Frontale, and that’s what the Ushi have. The champions showed some flaws over the weekend, struggling to create chances for the first time all season and Vissel definitely have the defensive chops to bring the same frustrations to Frontale. If they do that, and they can capitalize on the chance or two they will get, it’s possible Vissel will pull a shock result, knocking Frontale from their perch atop the league and making a big statement in the process.

Player to Watch

Yoshito Okubo has been rightfully getting plaudits for his fast start to the season, but he’s not all alone as the league’s top scorer. Daizen Maeda is right there with him, having notched five goals too.

The striker has not scored mind blowing goals. There are not rapped strikes from 25 yards or brilliant, mazy runs. He’s simply been exceedingly smart and efficient, roaming the box for space and making no mistakes with his finishes. And as Maeda has surged, so have Yokohama F·Marinos. The team lost their opening match of the season, but have taken results ever since and it’s been led by a deadly attack that has picked up three goals in each contest.

Right now, there is no more dangerous attack than Marinos’ and no more dangerous attacker than Maeda. Tokushima Vortis are visiting Yokohama on Wednesday and you know their tactics will center on stopping Maeda, but that may not matter because he’s looking unstoppable right now.

Storyline to Watch

It’s still early in the season, but we’re already seeing Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus make clear they are going to be at or near the top of the table. Anyone who makes a list of teams set to compete for those top four will start with those two, but what about after them?

Sagan Tosu have looked good, but haven’t played any other top teams yet. Marinos are running red hot and now making a charge. Cerezo are a goal machine, but also conceding plenty as well, while Vissel Kobe have been strong and Sanfrecce Hiroshima are without a loss. 

The group of teams competing for the top four spots is deep and talented, but it’s unclear how many of them are going to stay in the fight all season and whether there are any other teams who might establish themselves as a clear favorite for one of those Champions League places. Every week is an opportunity to get a little more clarity, though.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE Sec.3, Omiya Ardija vs Kyoto Sanga F.C. to resume

The 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE Sec.3 match between Omiya Ardija and Kyoto Sanga F.C., which was suspended on Saturday, March 13 due to a thunderstorm during the first 19 minutes, will resume on Wednesday, March 24 with the score 0-1, the score as it stands.

■The match to resume

Date KO Fixture Venue
24 March
19:00 *1 Omiya Ardija vs Kyoto Sanga F.C. NACK5 Stadium Omiya

*1 There may be changes to the kickoff time based on whether the state of emergency has been lifted or not.

[Outline of the match] The conditions for resuming the match are the same as those at the time it was suspended, and outlined as follows:

Subject Contents
How the match will be resumed The match will resume from 19 minutes into the first half.
As viewed from the main stand, Omiya Ardija will start on the left-hand side of the pitch, and Kyoto Sanga F.C. will start on the right-hand side.
Omiya Ardija will kick off.
Participating players In principle, the match will resume with the same players on the field of play at the time the match was suspended on March 13.
(1) If players are unable to participate due to injury or illness, players for the match to resume will be selected from players who were substitutes during the suspended match.
(2) If substitute players from the suspended match are unable to participate due to injury or illness, clubs may supplement with new substitute players.
(3) In the case of (1) above, supplementing new players will not be counted as substitutions.
Number of substitutions The remaining number of substitutions at the time the match was suspended shall apply, with Omiya Ardija able to substitute 5 players/3 times, and Kyoto Sanga F.C. able to substitute 5 players/3 times. Substitutions due to suspected concussion are not included in the numbers above.
Match record The match record from when it was suspended will apply:
Omiya Ardija 0-1 Kyoto Sanga F.C.
(Score 18 minutes [Kyoto] Kosuke Taketomi)
◇Cautions: None
◇Ejections: None
◇Substitutions: None



J1 Matchweek 4 Recap: The group of perfect teams is whittled down to two

And then there were two. A quick start to the season saw three teams head into Matchweek 4 of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE with a perfect record, but this weekend claimed a victim and now there are only two perfect teams remaining - Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus.

But while Sagan Tosu dropped from the ranks of the perfect this weekend, they simply joined another group of three - the imperfect, but undefeated, with draws as the only blemishes on their records. There are just so many good teams out there.

Shimizu S-Pulse 0, Sagan Tosu 0

Sagan Tosu were the surprise package of the early season, winning their first three matches in dominant fashion to jump to second in the table, but they hadn’t played the toughest of schedules. Playing away to S-Pulse on Sunday was their biggest test of the season, and it is one that doomed them to their first dropped points of the campaign. It wasn’t a bad showing by any means for the visitors, though. Sagan were unquestionably the better team and on almost any other day would have walked away winners, but they hit the bar twice late and demanded Shūichi Gonda play flawlessly. Fortunately for S-Pulse, their goalkeeper was in fact flawless, and they became the first to take points off Sagan almost entirely because of Gonda’s heroics.

Kawasaki Frontale 1, Kashiwa Reysol 0

Facing Frontale is the tallest of tasks, but Reysol appeared up for it. They didn’t generate many chances, but they defended as well as any team in the league has against the champions. For more than an hour, only an incredible Kaoru Mitoma run really broke down the Reysol defense, and even then Kim Seung-gyu was there to keep Frontale out. But, finally, in the 80th minute, Frontale found their way through. Once again, it was the speedy Mitoma who did the job, getting in down the left before crossing for Akihiro Ienaga to knock in and deliver Frontale a hard fought win.

Vissel Kobe 0, Nagoya Grampus 1

With Sagan Tosu falling off the pace, Nagoya Grampus were left to keep the pressure on Frontale and keep the pressure on, they did. In a tricky match away to Vissel Kobe, Nagoya simply played their style - sensational, impenetrable defense and efficient attacking. The stout Grampus defense only allowed Mitchell Langerak to face one shot all match, and that was enough because of Sho Inagaki’s absolutely thumping strike. The midfielder was given some space from 30 yards and smashed the ball as hard as a ball can be hit. Not only did the ball come off Inagaki’s foot like a rocket, but he put it right into the top corner for an unreal goal that was deservedly the match winter as Grampus maintained their perfect start to the season.

Yokohama FC 1, Cerezo Osaka 4

Cerezo walked away from Yokohama with three points, but it wasn’t quite as easy as the scoreline suggested. Yuta Toyokawa was able to put Cerezo in front with a clever header, but the visitors didn’t find many opportunities in the first half as the home side defended well. Then Ryo Germain started the second half with a fortunate deflected goal and Yokohama FC were even - dreaming of picking up their first point of the season. But that was the end of the optimism for Yokohama FC. Yoshito Okubo notched his fifth goal of the season minutes after Yokohama’s equalizer, then Mutsuki Kato finished a beautiful counterattack to extend the Cerezo lead. Finally, Toshiyuki Takagi hit a steaming shot late on to wrap up a 4-1 win for Cerezo, while Yokohama will feel as if they wasted a good first hour of play and remain in search of their first mark on the table.

Yokohama F·Marinos 3, Urawa Reds 0

Marinos started the season with a loss, but they have been stupendous ever since and their performance against Urawa Reds was more of the same. Daizen Maeda scored in the second minute, then added a second in the 26th minute for his joining league leading fifth goal of the season. Ryuta Koike put the match to bed in the second half with a goal of his own, but this one was never in doubt. Marinos were simply dominant as they continued their excellent play and run up the table, now into fifth.

Kashima Antlers 1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1

A rainy Kashima couldn’t douse an exciting battle between two teams trying to jump from midtable to the top four. Kashima was bright early on, but Yuya Asano made sure Sanfrecce would be first on the board with a pretty strike from 20 yards that curled just inside the post. With a goal in hand, Sanfrecce tried their best to protect their lead and were largely effective. Kashima had the ball, but really struggled to break down the good Sanfrecce back line. It was going to take something exceptional to find the goal, and Kashima were finally able to produce just that. Six players combined with a total of nine touches to move the ball so quickly and cleverly into the box, where Ryotaro Araki struck quickly and earned the home side a point in a fantastic showing from both teams as Sanfrecce remained without a loss.

Oita Trinita 1, F.C.Tokyo 1

F.C.Tokyo were bright from the start at The Big Eye, with Diego Oliveira giving the home side fits right away. An early header from the big Brazilian rattled the bar, but he was not going to be denied and a 28th minute run down the left saw him pick out Ryoma Watanabe and put a cross right onto his teammate’s head. Watanabe was not going to miss from there, nodding home for the opening tally. Tokyo continued to threaten, primarily on the counterattack, and Diego Oliveira could have had another goal or two, but Oita Trinita just barely kept them out. That proved crucial, because late on, they stole a point. A long ball found Kohei Isa in the center of the box and Isa gorgeously chested the ball onto the run of Yamato Machida, who finished with authority on the first touch to split points and keep Trinita undefeated.

Shonan Bellmare 3, Vegalta Sendai 1

Shonan Bellmare entered the weekend without a point this season and in the drop zone, but that’s not the case anymore. It started quickly for the home side, too, as Ryo Takahashi was first to a loose ball on the edge of the box and hit it low and hard, just inside the post for a goal after just three minutes. Vegalta Sendai answered with pressure, but they couldn’t turn their many shots into a goal and Bellmare extended their lead after 50 minutes. First, Takahashi played the role of helper, hitting a beautiful ball for Shintaro Nago to finish, then Shuto Machino hit a powerful header from a corner kick and Bellmare had a three goal advantage. Vegalta Sendai did finally get one goal through Yoshiki Matsushita, but it was not nearly enough as Shonan Bellmare got their points and jumped out of the relegation zone.

Tokushima Vortis 1, Avispa Fukuoka 2

The battle of the newly promoted sides could have gone either way. Both sides flashed the ability to combine and create, but also had some niggles at the back. Vortis scored after just two minutes, as a quick counterattack caught Fukuoka out and Yuki Kakita put the home side in front. Not long after they rattled the crossbar, but even at just 1-0, they went into halftime as deserved leaders. The second half flipped, though. Fukuoka was the dangerous team on the counter and a beautiful 53rd minute combination in the middle sent Emil Salomonsson in alone on goal, where he finished with ease to level the match. Unfortunately, the match ended up decided by a terrible mistake as Diego completely misjudged a high ball in the box, missed the header and had it bounce back off the turf and onto his arm for a penalty. Takeshi Kanamori then buried the spot kick and Fukuoka walked away with their first win of the season.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE Sec.3, Omiya Ardija vs Kyoto Sanga F.C. suspended

J.LEAGUE has announced the match below has been suspended due to thunderstorm.
Further details of the match suspended will be announced when determined.

■Match suspended

Date KO Fixture Venue
13 March
14:00 Omiya Ardija vs Kyoto Sanga F.C. NACK5 Stadium Omiya



J1 Matchweek 4 Viewer’s Guide: Surging Sagan Tosu get the spotlight

Match to Watch

Sagan Tosu are the surprise team of the young season. Some smart offseason moves had them primed to improve on last season’s 13th place finish, but even the most optimistic of fans could not have imagined they’d be this good in the early going. An opening 1-0 win set the stage, then they looked even better in dispatching Urawa Reds, 2-0, in Matchweek 2, but the absolute thumping they gave Vegalta Sendai over the weekend was the real breakout performance.

This weekend will present Sagan Tosu with their stiffest test yet, though. A trip to Shimizu S-Pulse will give their attack another chance to shine, but, more than anything, reveal just how good their defense is. They haven’t conceded yet all season, but they haven’t met Katsuhiro Nakayama and Co.

If Sagan can topple S-Pulse, it will be a massive statement. But S-Pulse are out to make a statement of their own and scoring the first goal on Sagan, or maybe even the second and third too, would make clear they have one of the most fearsome attacks in the league.

Player to Watch

Oita Trinita are off to a nice start this season, grabbing a win and draw from their first two matches. Their defense has been up to the task, looking stout in each contest. What they need is a little juice in the attack, and Arata Watanabe can give them that.

The attacking midfielder has been good in the early going, even scoring in the opening weekend. Trinita need a hub for their attack and the outstanding Watanabe can be that. If he shines, so can Trinita.

The F.C.Tokyo defense that Watanabe and Co. will be facing this weekend has some good defenders, but they haven’t been excellent this season. This will be the perfect blend of a challenge for Watanabe, and also an opportunity to run riot if he’s at his best.

Storyline to Watch

Goals, goals, goals. The start to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE has been all about the onslaught of goals, but who’s been winning and losing so far this season? That’s been decided more by who can keep goals out.

Kawasaki Frontale, Sagan Tosu and Nagoya Grampus are the only teams in the league who have conceded fewer than a goal per game and, not coincidentally, they are sitting in the top three spots of the table.

You still have to score to win, and Kawasaki Frontale are leading the league in goals scored, but keep an eye on the defenses. Who separates themselves as great defensive teams is looking like the real key to who reigns supreme this season.



J1 Matchweek 3 Recap: Top of table Frontale, Nagoya and Sagan Tosu all shine

The high scoring MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE stayed, well, high scoring in Matchweek 3. For the second straight week, there were more than three goals per game as teams across the country lit up the scoreboards.

All those goals couldn’t shake up the top of the table, though. Kawasaki Frontale still lead the way, with the benefit of having played one more match, but Nagoya Grampus and Sagan Tosu have also taken maximum points and are right on the heels of the defending champions.

Kawasaki Frontale 2, Tokushima Vortis 0

New promoted Vortis were tasked with going away to the top team in the league and coming away with a result. That didn’t happen, and the visitors will be disappointed with how they handled the Frontale high pressure, but there were bright spots. Naoto Kamifukumoto was up to the challenge in goal, and Vortis defended well when they were able to get their back line set. All in all, it was a respectable showing for a team new to the top flight that was handed the tallest of tasks. The defending champions, led by Leandro Damião’s two first-half goals, were simply too much to handle, but that has been the case for many teams over the last couple seasons.

Kashiwa Reysol 0, Nagoya Grampus 1

When you have a defense as good as Nagoya Grampus’, it doesn’t take much to rack up wins. That was the case on Wednesday night, where a single own goal was enough to deliver three points. A 58th minute cross found Yoichiro Kakitani, whose header forced a great save from Kim Seung-gyu. Kim then made an even better save on Sho Inagaki’s rebound attempt, but, unfortunately for Reysol, the rebound off that save hit Takuma Ominami’s leg and, before the defender even realized, the ball had bounced into the net for the deciding goal.

Sagan Tosu 5, Vegalta Sendai 0

The surprise team with a perfect record this season is Sagan Tosu, and they made a statement with an absolute thumping of Vegalta. Five different players scored for the home side, started by Keita Yamashita in the fifth minute. Eduardo followed in the 25th minute, but the pick of them all came in the 39th minute when Tomoya Koyamatsu cut in on his right foot and hit a gorgeous curling ball from 18 yards right into the bottom corner. Vegalta had an opportunity to make a match of it in first half stoppage time when they earned a penalty kick, but Shuhei Akasaki’s attempt smashed off the post. Yuta Higuchi and Noriyoshi Sakai added second-half tallies and Sagan Tosu had themselves a statement win. 

F.C.Tokyo 2, Vissel Kobe 3

Vissel Kobe looked on their way to a comfortable victory after Douglas scored twice to put them ahead at Ajinomoto Stadium, but his second tally in the 65th minute just brought the match to life. F.C.Tokyo got on the board when Diego Oliviera was played in behind the Kobe defense and rounded the keeper to make it a one-goal match. Three minutes later, a rebound fell right to Kensuke Nagai, who finished into an empty net and the match was tied. Momentum seemed to lie with Tokyo, but in the 85th minute, Yuta Goke let a long effort rip. His shot smashed off the post, but Goke was still running forward after his shot and beat everyone to the rebound. He tapped the ball home for a bizarre, but match-winning goal to rescue all three points for Kobe and move them to fourth in the table.

Kashima Antlers 3, Shonan Bellmare 1

It was a rough start to the season for Kashima Antlers, who gave away a late lead in their first match then had their second match postponed. While it was primarily a result of circumstance, it was still unusual to see such a historic club towards the bottom of the table, but they moved quickly to set things right on Wednesday night. Ryotaro Araki scored just three minutes into the match to put Kashima in front, then the winger added a second goal in the second half with a shot cooly slotted between the goalkeeper’s legs. All was right in Kashima again, and while Takuya Okamoto did cut their lead in half late, Koki Machida scored right after to restore the home side’s two-goal lead and ensure Kashima would walk away winners for the first time in 2021.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 1

Things could have hardly started better for Sanfrecce at Edion Stadium Hiroshima. Kosei Shibasaki scored a mere two minutes into the contest when he made a late run into the box on a corner kick and powered a header into the net. Then, just six minutes later, a perfect Sanfrecce counterattack saw Yoshifumi Kashiwa get the ball unmarked from 18 yards and he did not make a mistake, slotting the ball right into the corner for an early two-goal advantage. The potent Consadole attack went into overdrive for the rest of the match, constantly threatening the Sanfrecce goal, but all they had to show for it was one Anderson Lopes penalty. Otherwise, their efforts smashed the post or just missed the frame, as Sanfrecce held on for victory.

Cerezo Osaka 2, Shimizu S-Pulse 1

S-Pulse must have felt good about their chances to take some points home from Osaka after scoring in the fifth minute. Katsuhiro Nakayama pounced on a poor giveaway and finished to give the visitors an early lead, but crosses brought Cerezo back for victory. First, it was a corner kick whipped in that Ryuya Nishio got on the end of to equalize, then it was a spectacular volleyed finish from Hiroshi Kiyotake that delivered the win to Cerezo. S-Pulse may feel hard done after a good performance that probably should have earned them at least a point, but Cerezo played well too, and a finish as terrific as Kiyotake’s does deserve the glory of being a match-winner.

Avispa Fukuoka 1, Yokohama F·Marinos 3

Marinos controlled this match from the start, dominating possession and generating the first looks at goal, but it wasn’t until the 38th minute that they were rewarded. A handball in the box earned them a penalty kick, which Marcos Júnior buried for the lead. A second goal came just after the hour mark when Ryuta Koike’s blast from more than 20 yards found the net and it looked like the visitors would win easily. Down two, Fukuoka tried to mount a comeback and a Cauê tally in the 74th minute made for a tense finish, but Daizen Maeda scored on a gorgeous diving header in the 90th minute to wrap up all three points in style for Marinos.

Urawa Reds 2, Yokohama FC 0

Yokohama FC played their best match of the young campaign in Saitama, but a pair of rash challenges ruined their evening. Shunsuke Nakamura committed the first offense, clumsily pulled down Tomoya Ugajin on the edge of the box for a 37th minute penalty that Kenyu Sugimoto converted. Then, just before the half, it was Daiki Nakashio who gave away a penalty, this time finished by Yuki Abe. For Urawa Reds, it was a successful night that saw them grab their first win of the season, but Yokohama FC walked away still without a point after a couple bad moments ruined an otherwise improved performance.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Three matches involving Gamba Osaka postponed

J.LEAGUE has announced that the matches below have been postponed in response to the guidance of the public health center to the club after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases were confirmed in Gamba Osaka.
Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.

■Matches postponed

Sec. Date KO Fixture Venue
4 Saturday
13 March
14:00 Hokkaido Consadole
vs Gamba
Sapporo Dome
5 Wednesday
17 March
19:00 Vegalta
vs Gamba
Yurtec Stadium Sendai
6 Sunday
21 March
14:00 Gamba
vs Yokohama
Panasonic Stadium Suita



J1 Matchweek 3 Viewer’s Guide: Clash in Hiroshima could bring goals and fireworks

Just a couple weeks into the new MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season and already the picture of the competition is getting clearer. Unsurprisingly, the defending champions Kawasaki Frontale look excellent and are the odds on favorite to top the league, while Nagoya Grampus look like the top challengers. Sagan Tosu are off to a great start, though, and maybe they are poised to break into the top four. Meanwhile, both of the newly promoted sides are looking up to the task of the top flight.

What will we be looking for in Matchweek 3?

Match to Watch

Kawasaki Frontale are the top scoring team, with 10 goals from three games, but if you want to see a match filled with goals on both ends, not to mention late thrills, you could hardly do better than Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

Sanfrecce have played to a pair of draws this season, both of which included last minute equalizers. In their opener, Sanfrecce capitulated with a last gasp goal against 10-man Vegalta Sendai. Their solution in Matchweek 2 was to build themselves a two-goal lead, but that also evaporated as Yokohama F·Marinos came rampaging back for a 3-3 draw.

Meanwhile, Consadole showed just how terrifying their attack can be when they scored five in their first match of the season. The full team performance was a treat, as forwards and midfielders interchanged beautifully. They scored from deep possession, on quick counterattacks and with high pressing. It was a masterclass in varied, inventive attacking prowess as Anderson Lopes and Chanathip Songkrasin led the way.

Both of these teams can do major damage with the ball and have the ability to score in bunches, or even concede at the worst of times. That’s a perfect setup for a thrilling match, and that’s what we could get in Hiroshima.

Player to Watch

It’s only been three matches, but Yoshito Okubo already has four goals to his name. The 38-year-old has been sensational since joining from Tokyo Verdy in the winter and Cerezo Osaka has needed each of his goals. Cerezo’s defense has not been at its best, with six goals in behind them already this season, so the attack has had to shine bright to keep them afloat and Okubo has risen to the occasion.

Cerezo is welcoming Shimizu S-Pulse and their high flying attack to Nagai Stadium this week, so odds are the Sakura will have to pour in goals if they want to take three points. That will put pressure on Okubo to keep banging in goals, but if the last few weeks are any indication, he will do just that.

Storyline to Watch

It’s far too early in the season to get caught up in the relegation battle, but turn your eyes to the bottom of the table and you see Yokohama FC, Kashima Antlers and Shonan Bellmare

Yokohama FC has really struggled all over the pitch. They’ve only managed two goals, but have conceded seven - the most in the league. The possession game hasn’t quite been there either. Certainly Yokohama FC are going to improve, and a match against Urawa Reds could give them a chance to set things right.

Kashima Antlers’ place towards the bottom isn’t entirely fair. They’ve only played one match so far due to a postponed contest against Gamba Osaka, but it is still unusual to see them anywhere but challenging the top of the table. Their opening match wasn’t great as their defense fell apart late and let Shimizu S-Pulse to score three to overturn a Kashima lead. With fresh legs after the weekend off and a chance to notch their first points of the season, expect them to come out flying with another points-less side Shonan Bellmare visiting.

Shonan Bellmare have actually defended pretty well, but the attack hasn’t clicked yet. Going away to a well-rested team isn’t usually ideal for turning things around, but if they can find an early goal, that might just be the spark they need.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.3, Gamba Osaka vs. Oita Trinita postponed

J.LEAGUE has announced the match below has been postponed after more cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka and to prevent further spread of the virus.

Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.

■Match postponed

Date KO Fixture Venue
10 March
19:00 Gamba
vs Oita
Panasonic Stadium Suita



J1 Matchweek 2 Recap: Champions stay hot, but challengers emerge

Another week is in the books

Vegalta Sendai 1, Kawasaki Frontale 5

Fresh off of a midweek win that pushed Kawasaki Frontale to two wins in two matches, they went away to Vegalta Sendai and put together one of the best performances by any team in this young season. Yu Kobayashi got on the end of a cross in the 12th minute for the opening goal to start the onslaught then he nearly scored again when he nodded a cross off the post 13 minutes later. Fortunately for Frontale, Daiya Tono got to the rebound and smashed it home for the 2-0 lead. An own goal made it three for the champions, then Kobayashi scored a second before Rikiya Uehara for the home side, but Reo Hatate got that goal back for Frontale in another impressive showing for a team that looks dead set on making it a second consecutive MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE title.

Nagoya Grampus 1, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0

The formidable Nagoya Grampus defense shone again and they shut down a Consadole attack that poured in five on the opening weekend. Once more, the Grampus back line closed down any half chance that was given and, on the rare occasion that Sapporo did get a look at goal, Mitchell Langerak was there to turn them away. Nagoya didn’t generate a ton of chances of their own so the match could have very easily been a draw, but a gorgeous bit of footwork from Naoki Maeda in the 82nd minute saw him beat his man on the end line and cross Yuki Soma tapped in for the winner to make it a perfect six points from two matches for the title challengers.

Sagan Tosu 2, Urawa Reds 0

Joining Nagoya with six points from two matches, and right on Kawasaki Frontale’s heels, is a rampaging Sagan Tosu. They started brightly and could have gone ahead early, but Shusaku Nishikawa made some fine saves to keep the match level at the break. Nishikawa was again up to the task in the 62nd minute when Fuchi Honda made a terrific, marauding run that saw him shoot well to the near post, only for the Reds backstop to deny him. But Keita Yamashita was able to get to the rebound and knock it in for the opening goal. Down a goal, Urawa Reds came alive and nearly scored, but Sagan Tosu cleared a shot off their line to deny them before Yamashita scored a second goal in the 81st minute to put the match to bed.

Tokushima Vortis 1, Vissel Kobe 1

Tokushima Vortis are still in search of their first win since being promoted to the top flight, but they are still undefeated after another draw. It took until the 75th minute for the deadlock to break as both sides struggled to break down the other’s stingy defense, but Yuki Kakita latched onto a ball in the box, showed patience to make a shooting lane open up, and then slid the ball past the goalkeeper and multiple defenders for the opening goal. With just 15 minutes to hold on for three points, Tokushima Vortis put their men behind the ball and looked sturdy, but a long shot was mishandled by Naoto Kamifukumoto, leaving an easy rebound for Ryuho Kikuchi to knock in and split the points.

F.C.Tokyo 3, Cerezo Osaka 2

It was a rough week for Cerezo Osaka, who lost two leads and the match in midweek action against Kawasaki Frontale and then did the same against F.C.Tokyo, but this time by conceding a 93rd minute winner. Yoshito Okubo put Cerezo in front with a clever run in behind the defense and a diving glancing header to finish. F.C.Tokyo were gifted an equalizer on the other side of halftime when Kim Jin-hyeon misplayed a back pass, scrambled and put it right in front of his goal line for Kyosuke Tagawa to slide and tap in. Cerezo answered with a vicious strike by Riki Harakawa that found the back of the net for the lead, but it was downhill from there for the visitors. An inch perfect free kick by Leandro found the corner of the goal for a 71st minute equalizer, then in stoppage time Masato Morishige was able to finish a whipped in set piece to wrap up three points for F.C.Tokyo and end Cerezo Osaka’s week with four leads and no points to show for it.

Shimizu S-Pulse 2, Avispa Fukuoka 2

Carlinhos started off the action in Shimizu-ku with a pretty curling effort from 20 yards that gave S-Pulse a lead after a dozen minutes. That lead held until just after the hour mark when a cross made it all the way across to the far post for Yuya Yamagishi to settle and smash in for an equalizer. Masaaki Murakami played the role of hero for Fukuoka in the first half, making some fine saves to keep the match close, but that form was missing in the 65th minute when he dropped a looping cross right onto Katsuhiro Nakayama’s foot and the S-Pulse man easily slotted the ball into the open goal. Emil Salomonsson bailed Murakami out in stoppage time, though, hitting a free kick from more than 20 yards that found the back of the net and split the points.

Yokohama FC 1, Oita Trinita 2

A quick start delivered Oita Trinita all three points in Yokohama. It began with low cross that was redirected on goal by Yuto Misao and, while Yuji Rokutan will feel as if he should have kept it out, the ball got by the goalkeeper for the opening goal. Two minutes later, the Yokohama defense misplayed a cross and handed Seigo Kobayashi a golden chance that he did not waste and Oita Trinita had themselves a 2-0 lead before even a dozen minutes had passed. Kohei Tezuka rapped a free kick home to bring Yokohama within a goal, but that was not enough to deny Oita Trinita an away win.

Kashiwa Reysol 2, Shonan Bellmare 1

An early red card doomed Kashiwa Reysol in their season opener, but they kept all 11 men on the pitch in this one and Hiroto Goya delivered them three points. The Kashiwa striker struck first by heading a cross just inside the post for the opener. Shonan Bellmare responded with some heavy pressure that finally paid off just before halftime when Takuya Okamoto found the back of the net, but Goya came to the home side’s rescue. Once again, a cross did the job, but this time he was able to use his foot to connect for his second goal of the game and the first three points to Kashiwa Reysol on the campaign.

Yokohama F·Marinos 3, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3

The final match of the weekend featured, of course, a comeback. Ezequiel drew an early penalty, which Junior Santos converted, to give Sanfrecce the lead, then Shunko Higashi capitalized on a goalkeeper error to stretch the lead to 2-0. Daizen Maeda got Marinos on the board when he found himself in alone on goal and calmly slotted the ball home, but an unfortunate handball saw Sanfrecce get their second spot kick of the game, this time buried by Douglas Vieira. That just set the stage for the Marinos comeback, which began with Ado Onaiwu doing an excellent job to hold off his defender, turn and shoot. The ball found the back of the net, halving the home side’s deficit. Finally, a gorgeous cutback by Kota Watanabe left a defender in his dust and gave space for him to hit a cross, which found a diving Maeda, whose gorgeous header finished the comeback and a thrilling Matchweek 2 in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.



Players to Watch in 2021

The J.LEAGUE has a long and proud history of producing star players, with world famous names like Hidetoshi Nakata, Keisuke Honda, and Takefusa Kubo all making their professional debuts in Japan.

New players emerge into the spotlight to create headlines every year, and before the likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, and Daichi Kamada were shining in Europe and for the Japan national team they were giving the fans of Avispa Fukuoka, Cerezo Osaka, and Sagan Tosu plenty to cheer about back home.

The 2021 season won’t be any different in that respect, so let’s take a look at a few of the players expected to make names for themselves in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE this year!

Kaoru Mitoma (Kawasaki Frontale, 23) – Mitoma is the hottest property in the J.LEAGUE at the moment, after enjoying a breakout season for Kawasaki Frontale last year. In his first professional season the Kanagawa native recorded 13 goals and 12 assists as Kawasaki romped to the title, as well as leaving countless opposing defenders with twisted blood as a result of his powerful, mazy dribbles. This season started right where the previous one left off with Mitoma notching two goals in the FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP against Gamba Osaka, and he was again in imperious form in the curtain-raising MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE game on 26 February as the reigning champions downed Yokohama F.Marinos 2-0.

Takuro Kaneko (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, 23) – Sapporo were the biggest winners on Matchday 1 after cruising past Yokohama FC 5-1, and Kaneko played a vital role in delivering the three points for Mihailo Petrovic’s side. After doubling their lead in just the fourth minute he curled home again to make it 4-1 in first half injury time, more than living up to the hype after taking on the coveted No.9 shirt for this season. The opening day brace means he is already halfway to his solid tally of four goals from 15 starts last year, and if he keeps up this form there will surely be plenty more where they came from.

Ryonosuke Kabayama (Yokohama F.Marinos, 18) – Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the team-sheets were released ahead of the Kawasaki Frontale versus Yokohama F.Marinos clash on 26 February, with Ange Postecoglou thrusting high school graduate Kabayama straight into the Yokohama F・M starting 11 against the reigning champions. Despite only turning 18 last September the youngster looked immediately at home on the J.LEAGUE pitch though, with Postecoglou expressing delight at the way Kabayama seized his chance and bemoaning the fact that some of his more experienced teammates were unable to capitalise upon the scoring chances he created.

Atsuki Ito (Urawa Reds, 22) – Thirty-nine-year-old Yuki Abe may have made all the headlines after marking his return to the starting line-up with a goal in Urawa Reds’ opener against FC Tokyo on 27 February, but Ito was quietly excellent alongside him on his debut in the 1-1 draw. New Urawa manger Ricardo Rodriguez achieved much success at former club Tokushima Vortis by surrounding experienced players with talented youngsters, and Ito showed in his first 90 minutes of J.LEAGUE action that he has more than enough potential to develop into a key player for the Spaniard as he looks to return the Saitama giant to its former glories.

Daichi Hayashi (Sagan Tosu, 23) – Sagan Tosu made global headlines in 2018 when they signed Spain legend Fernando Torres, while the aforementioned Daichi Kamada burst onto the scene the previous year to earn a move to German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. Hayashi is the latest striker to sparkle in the blue and pink in Kyushu, and after top-scoring for Kim Myung-hwi’s side last year with nine goals – a return rendered even more impressive by the fact that just 10 of his 31 appearances came as a member of the starting line-up – he got up and running immediately in 2021 with the only goal of the game away to Shonan Bellmare.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.2, Gamba Osaka vs. Kashima Antlers postponed

J.LEAGUE has announced that the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE match between Gamba Osaka vs. Kashima Antlers, scheduled for Saturday 6 March 2021 at 16h00 JST, has been postponed after cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka.

Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.

■Match postponed

Date KO Fixture Venue
6 March
16:00 Gamba
vs Kashima
Panasonic Stadium Suita


League Cup

J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP Group Stage Matchday 1 Recap: Reigning champs start fast

The J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP is back! As always, it begins with the Group Stage - four groups of four teams each with the top two advancing. There, they will be joined by Kawasaki Frontale, Gamba Osaka, Nagoya Grampus and Cerezo Osaka, Japan’s qualifiers for the AFC Champions League who got a bye through this round of the J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP.

Kashima Antlers 3, Sagan Tosu 0

No club has won the J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP more than Kashima Antlers, who have lifted the trophy a record six times. And if their opener to this year’s edition was any indication, they are right on track to make it seven. Everaldo scored just 10 minutes into the match, and Ryuji Izumi and Itsuki Someno picked up goals of their own in a dominant Kashima performance to put them top of Group A.

Avispa Fukuoka 2, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 3

Consadole did all of their work in the first half, putting three goals in before the break. Douglas scored from the spot at the quarter hour then added another before handing the honors over to Taika Nakashima, who tallied at the end of the half. Avispa Fukuoka put up a fight, with KennedyEgbus Mikuni scoring in the first half and Hisashi Jogo finding the net in the dying minutes, but it wasn’t enough to deny Sapporo a crucial three away points in Group A.

Oita Trinita 1, Vissel Kobe 3

Vissel Kobe were beaten handily, 6-0, in the quarterfinals of this competition last season and are looking to make that right this time around, but to do that they need to make it to the quarterfinals again. They got off to a great start in their pursuit of that in their opener, overcoming an early strike from Oita Trinita with goals from Asahi Masuyama, Yuya Nakasaka and Junya Tanaka to storm back for a win that puts them on top of Group B.

F.C.Tokyo 1, Tokushima Vortis 0

As defending champions, expectations are high for F.C.Tokyo. They conquered the J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP last seasonand their fans expect to be back in the final, ready to hoist another trophy at the end of the year. Kyosuke Tagawa made sure they would be on track for just that against Vortis, scoring just before the hour mark for the lone goal of the match. It was a solid three points for the title holders, who are sitting pretty in Group B in their bid to repeat.

Shonan Bellmare 0, Urawa Reds 0

There was no score in this Group C opener, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t much action. The match was wide open for stretches, with Shonan Bellmare unquestionably on the front foot and creating a slew of chances, but that wasn’t enough to deliver three points. The home side scuffed a couple opportunities they would surely like to have back, but their big problem was Zion Suzuki. The Urawa Reds goalkeeper was sublime, denying Shonan time and time again to earn his side an away point to start off the cup.

Kashiwa Reysol 0, Yokohama FC 1

Yokohama FC are sitting pretty atop Group C, and all the more impressively, they did it by winning away. The deciding moment in the match came in the 50th minute when Takumi Kamijima was judged to have tumbled through the back of Sho Ito. The referee pointed to the spot as Kamijima fell to his knees, astounded he had been called for the foul. On the flip side, Ito was thrilled and promptly picked the ball up, drilled the penalty and delivered the visitors three points.

Yokohama F·Marinos 1, Vegalta Sendai 0

It’s been 20 years since Yokohama F·Marinos won their first and only J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP. They intend to celebrate that anniversary with another title, and sitting on top of Group D is a good way to make it happen. That’s where they are after Matchweek 1, thanks to Ado Onaiwu. The forward tallied the lone goal of the game in the 16th minute and Marinos saw out the rest of the contest to seal the win.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0, Shimizu S-Pulse 0

Neither Sanfrecce nor S-Pulse were able to find a winner in the evening contest at EDION Stadium Hiroshima, but that won’t be much of a worry for either side. Both got off to a quick start in the league with results in their openers and racking up a point apiece in the cup continues an undefeated start to both of their campaigns.



2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE Sec.11, Nagoya Grampus vs. Gamba Osaka postponed

J.LEAGUE has announced that the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE match between Nagoya Grampus vs. Gamba Osaka, scheduled for Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 19h00 JST, has been postponed after cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Gamba Osaka.

Further details of the match postponed will be announced when determined.

■Match postponed

Date KO Fixture Venue
3 March
19:00 Nagoya
vs Gamba
Toyota Stadium



J.LEAGUE Matchweek 1: “Did You Know?”

There’s undeniably something special about the first game of a new season, with a feeling of anticipation and optimism hanging over every fixture as players look to put their best foot forward and fans dare to dream of glories to come.

This year was no different in that respect, and there was plenty of drama and excitement as the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE and MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE kicked off their respective campaigns on the weekend of February 26th. The 21 games produced 51 goals between them, we saw the re-applications of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the J.LEAGUE, and even with the restrictions in place on account of COVID-19 a total of 107,937 supporters were in stadiums nationwide to urge their teams to victory.

Plenty of history has been made on the opening day of the season in previous years as well, with global superstars leaving their mark, venues packed to the rafters, and teams announcing themselves to the big time in style. Did you know…

… that on the opening day in 1993, Zico struck the first J.LEAGUE hat-trick as Kashima Antlers romped to a 5-0 victory over Nagoya Grampus Eight? The Brazil legend was on the scoresheet in the 25th, 30th, and 63rd minutes, while his compatriot Alcindo also found the net in the 53rd and 64th minutes. While it was a day of celebration for Kashima and their Brazilians, England striker and World Cup 1990 Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker won’t remember the day so fondly as he was on the losing side.

… that on the opening day in 1997, a soon-to-be World Cup-winning manager was in a J.LEAGUE dugout? Luiz Felipe Scolari began the season in charge of Júbilo Iwata with a 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Dunga – who had captained Brazil to the World Cup title in the USA in 1994 – and Iwata legends Masashi Nakayama and Hiroshi Nanami started for the home side, while current Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu, current Australia boss Graham Arnold, and AFC Champions League-winning coach Tony Popovic were all in the 11 for Hiroshima! Five years later, Scolari was back in Japan and won the World Cup with the Seleção.

… that the highest opening day attendance was recorded in 2008, when 61,246 crowded into Nissan Stadium to watch Yokohama F・Marinos versus Urawa Reds? Takanobu Komiyama scored the only goal of the game as Yokohama F・Marinos took the three points, while Yuki Abe – who is still going strong and started and scored for Urawa on the opening weekend this season – was in the side for the visitors.

… that the highest-scoring opening day fixture took place in 2009, when Júbilo Iwata were hammered 6-2 at home by Montedio Yamagata? Gilsinho opened the scoring for Iwata in the 17th minute, and after Kim Byung-suk and Tatsuya Furuhashi struck back for the visitors the Brazilian made it 2-2 with 63 minutes played. Four goals in 15 minutes late on secured a sensational victory for Montedio, however, with Yu Hasegawa (75’), Tomotaka Kitamura (80’), Leonardo (89’), and Hasegawa again (also 89’) delivering victory. What made the result even more remarkable was that the game was Yamagata’s first ever in the top flight – talk about making an introduction!

… that Yasuhito Endo has played in every opening round since making his debut as an 18-year-old for Yokohama Flugels against Yokohama Marinos in 1998? Even more incredibly, Japan’s record cap holder has started in 23 of those 24 appearances – including this year for Júbilo Iwata in their MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE opener away to FC Ryukyu on 28 February – with the only exception being the curtain raiser in 1999, when he came on as an 80th-minute substitute for Shigeru Morioka in Kyoto Purple Sanga’s 1-0 defeat away to Kashiwa Reysol.