Ventforet, F. Marinos, JEF win U-16 Challenge League groups

Ventforet Kofu, Yokohama F. Marinos and JEF United Chiba have celebrated after winning their respective groups in the J.League Under-16 Challenge League at the start of April.

In cooperation with co-sponsors Japan Foundation Asia Center, the J.League invited four clubs from across Southeast Asia to participate in the 40-team event.

Ventforet were the winners of Group 3, held in late March at the Tokinosumika Sports Center in Shizuoka, while F. Marinos took the Group 4 title at J-GREEN Sakai in Osaka.

Chiba were victorious in the fifth and final group while Vietnam’s PVF placed sixth and Indonesia’s Pertamina Soccer School finished eighth.

Following the conclusion of the final group, participating teams were recognised during a medal ceremony and post-match banquet.

“We would like to use tournaments like this to increase cultural exchanges amongst this generation of players,” representatives from both South-East Asian teams said.


Young Antlers and Chonburi FC win U-16 Challenge League group

The J.League Under-16 Challenge League’s first two groups concluded with Kashima Antlers celebrating after an exciting four days of play at the end of March.

In cooperation with co-sponsors Japan Foundation Asia Center, the J.League invited four clubs from across Southeast Asia to participate in the 40-team event.

Kashima Antlers won Group 2 at the Bokudennosato Sports Park Multipurpose Stadium in Ibaraki. Malaysia representatives Frenz United finished in fourth place, meanwhile.

Shonan Bellmare came close to matching Antlers’ feat in Group 1, but were unable to pip Thailand’s Chonburi FC at the summit.


Usami ensures battle for J.League leadership remains neck-and-neck

Takashi Usami was at the heart of another Gamba Osaka victory, as his strike in the 2-0 win over Shonan Bellmare moved the champions up to second in the J.League on Saturday.

The striker scored his sixth goal in four games - and seventh in total this season - to soar top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League goalscorers chart, and more importantly help Gamba record their fourth league win in a row.

Kenta Hasegawa’s side picked up what was a routine win against the promoted outfit after their talisman broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.

However, Gamba failed to break the hosts’ resistance until Yasuhito Endo’s strike in the final minute of the second half, as Yasuhito Endo made the result that moves the 2014 Treble winners within one point of leaders Urawa Reds safe.

The Reds had responded in stout manner from conceding first to visiting Yokohama F.Marinos, fighting back to emerge 2-1 victors and preserve their lead in the table.

Yuki Muto showed good composure to turn home the equaliser at the second attempt from a shot that rebounded off the post, cancelling out Sho Ito’s 34th minute goal.

Takahiro Sekine then pounced to score the winner in the dying minutes of first half, sweeping home a move that was started by new Reds signing Zlatan Ljubijankic and extending their time unbeaten at the top.

FC Tokyo had hoped to go first, if only temporarily, for the first time this season, but ultimately succumbed 2-1 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Ajinomoto Stadium despite scoring in the opening minute.

2015 breakout star Yoshinori Muto continued announcing himself to the world with another goal, capitalising on a rebound from a poor headed clearance in the Sanfrecce area to hit home.

But the visitors, who have looked revitalised this season, came pouring back when Kosei Shibasaki equalised 10 minutes later, paving the way for Takuma Asano’s winner in the closing stages of the second half.

The capital side thus find themselves leapfrogged by Sagan Tosu, whose impressive 3-0 win at basement side Ventforet Kofu came courtesy of Yohei Toyoda’s brace.

The veteran hitman got his first in the opening five minutes and would add another after the hour mark, as his team earned their 12th point of the season and move into third of the J1 League.

Kawasaki Frontale sit a solitary point behind in an impressive fourth spot following their 3-2 win at valiant Vegalta Sendai, 2014 top scorer Yoshito Okubo settling an encounter his side largely controlled in the 86th minute.

With challengers solidifying at the top, those who will duke it for survival this campaign likewise looks clearer too, after Albirex Niigata were twice pegged back by Vissel Kobe, both teams eventually having to settle for a 2-2 draw.

A point was nevertheless enough for the hosts to keep themselves out of the relegation zone, given what might have otherwise been a potentially decisive battle for survival between Montedio Yamagata and Matsumoto Yamaga petered out in a dour 0-0 draw.

Yamaga’s place in the bottom three was eventually taken by suffering Shimizu S-Pulse however, who lost their seventh game in all competitions by going down 3-1 at Nagoya Grampus.


Avispa to rely on star power for home game

Actor and musician Takeshi Tsuruno will appear at Avispa Fukuoka’s upcoming match against Cerezo Osaka, the former confirmed on Thursday.

Tsuruno’s presence on 3rd May is part of the 10,000 Fans Project, Avispa’s ongoing effort to attract an average attendance of 10,000 or higher over the course of the 2015 season.

Details regarding the star, who is most recognised for his role playing Ultraman Dyna, appearance at Level-5 Stadium will be announced in the near future.


Antlers extend unbeaten run to five games with 3-1 win at Reysol

The revival of Kashima Antlers is in full swing, after they put on a clinical display in their 3-1 win at Kashiwa Reysol on Thursday.

Goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno produced a valiant showing but was ultimately powerless to prevent Toninho Cerezo’s men from extending their unbeaten run to five games in all competitions.

The deadlocked was broken by the Antlers when Naomichi Ueda diverted in Gaku Shibsaski’s free-kick in first-half stoppages.

Reysol would react well to going down right before the break when they equalised through Eduardo in the 49th minute, although they had no answer to their visitors’ onslaught later.

Brazilian Caio fired his side back into the lead in the 71st minute, before Atsutaka Nakamura put the icing on the cake with Antlers’ third and final goal.

The excellent result temporarily moves the Japanese giants up to seventh in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League, consigning their poor start in the season to memory.


Zaccheroni to boss Kyushu Legends against Juventus legends

Ex-Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni will manage Kyushu Legends in their match against Juventus Legends at Best Amenity Stadium on 4th May.

“I’m happy to have received this invitation from Kyushu Legends,” Zaccheroni, who also bossed Juventus in his career, said in a statement following Sagan Tosu’s announcement on Thursday.

“It’s wonderful to return to Japan, where I have so many friends. I hope many people will come to Kyushu to enjoy this amazing event.”

The Italian managed Japan for nearly four years, winning the Asian Cup in 2011 and helping the Samurai Blue achieve their fifth straight World Cup appearance in 2014.


Inukai blow for S-Pulse

Shimizu S-Pulse confirmed on Tuesday that Tomoya Inukai will be sidelined for about three weeks due to a ligament injury in his right knee.

News of the central defender’s period on the sidelines, after he was diagnosed at the Shizuoka Metropolitan Hospital, will come as a blow.

Inukai has started in all five J1 League matches this season, after returning to S-Pulse following his key role in Matsumoto Yamaga’s promotion to the top-flight.

Coach Katsumi Oenoki had been hoping to count on the youngster’s contributions, with the side currently seeking to overturn a stretch of seven matches without a win.


Gamba talent Nishino sidelined with fracture

Gamba Osaka defender Takaharu Nishino will be sidelined for three weeks due to a fracture to one of the toes in his left foot, the club revealed on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old is a product of Gamba’s youth system, and is currently in his fourth season as a professional player despite his young age.

Nishino scored three goals in 22 matches in all competitions as his club clinched an unprecedented domestic Treble in 2014.

Although he is yet to make an appearance this term, Nishino is considered a member of the Japan Under-22 national team.


Sato and Fukuda to present Reds event

Urawa Reds have announced an event that will take place in the square south of Saitama Stadium 2002 this Saturday.

The event called “Urawa Reds Before-The-Game Talk Show” will be held ahead of the J1 league match versus Yokohama F.Marinos.

J.League Female Manager Miki Sato and former Reds legend Masahiro Fukuda will host the show, presented by SkaPa, the cable network that broadcasts J.League matches.

Fukuda played a total of 355 games for the club during their pre-J.League days, scoring 172 goals over the course of 13 seasons.

Fukuda also represented Japan 45 times, scoring 9 goals.

The 48-year-old is presently a TV pundit and often involved in shows about the J.League, particularly his former club.


Yamaga gear up for relegation rumble with training win

Matsumoto Yamaga FC romped to a 5-1 training victory against Takushoku University’s football team.

The J1 League side found themselves behind at first, but came back right into it thanks to two goals by Ryutaro Iio.

His strikes were followed by three more courtesy of Yuki Okubo, Tomoyuki Arata and Brazilian Doriva.

Matsumoto Yamaga FC are 16th in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League with four points, and travel to fellow strugglers Montedio Yamagata this Saturday for a key clash to avoid relegation.

The three teams with the least total over the two 17-match stages of the league will be relegated to the second tier at the end of the seasons.


Frontale to relaunch pre-match young fan activity

Kawasaki Frontale have announced it will organize it’s first “It’s a Sumo World” event in two years on 29th April.

Children and their families will have the chance to interact with the local Kasugayama sumo team in the space next to Todoroki Park ahead of the match with Kashiwa Reysol.

The huge sumo wrestlers are expected to make the rest of the world appear small to participants, when the latter try to score a penalty past their hulking frames in goal.

Frontale took the award for most entertaining fan activities ahead of and at half time of games in the 2014 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season.

Their mascots Fronta-kun and Warunta-kun also rank among the most iconic in Japan.


Tanaka fires stunning poker versus Blaublitz

Tatsuya Tanaka was on fire as Albirex Niigata ran out 5-1 winners over J3 side Blaublitz Akita in a training match on Monday.

Sho Naruoka scored the first goal for the J1 League side, paving the way for Tanaka’s sensational poker.

Former Urawa Reds striker Tanaka, 32, has played four games in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League this season, though he’s yet to score his first goal there.

Albirex are 14th in the top-flight, with 5 points in as many matches.

Third-tier Blaublitz’s goal came via an effort by 18-year-old striker Takunosuke Funakawa.


Grampus rack up double figures in training match

Nagoya Grampus beat FC Gifu B 11-0 in a training match held on Monday at Toyota Sports Center.

The team scored five goals in the first half alone, which included a brace by club starlet Gustavo.

The 18-year-old Brazilian completed his hat trick in the second half of a game which also saw 1.9m-tall Nikki Havenaar amongst the scorers.

Akira Nishino’s side sit comfortably in 12th of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League table, having managed to collect five points from five games.


Marinos record eight million attendees

Yokohama F. Marinos have achieved the landmark of hosting eight million match attendees over the course of 15 J.League seasons.

The record came last Sunday, when the J.League co-founders welcomed Vegalta Sendai and their supporters to Nissan Stadium.

A total attendance of 20,207 fans were present at the 1-1 draw, which saw 2004 champions F.Marinos finish matchday 5 in seventh place.


Vissel launch official Twitter account

Vissel Kobe launched their official club Twitter account on Sunday.

The social media platform will be used to share information about the club with supporters in Japanese.

Indeed, Vissel were able to publish a celebratory post last weekend when the team defeated Ventforet Kofu 4-1, a result that lifted them up to ninth in the league.

Fans can now follow the account at @vissel_kobe.


Grampus tie rising star Koyamatsu to Pro A contract

Nagoya Grampus awarded Tomoya Koyamatsu full Pro A status last Saturday after he managed a total of 450 minutes so far this term.

The 19-year-old achieved the figure when he participated in the team’s MEIJI YASUDA J1 League defeat at Gamba Osaka on 3rd April.

Koyamatsu was transferred to Grampus in January 2014 after starring at the All-Japan High School tournament, where he led his team, Kyoto Tachibana, to a final and then a semi-final.

Despite the forward’s young age and relative experience, Akira Nishino has been quick to trust him this season.

The talented striker is thus already considered a regular for his side, and bagged his first goal of the season on matchday 1 against Matsumoto Yamaga.


Vissel launch “Kobe vi-jo” for female fans

Vissel Kobe have announced the opening of a new Instagram account for their female supporters.

The name of this initiative is “Kobe vi-jo”, where ‘vi’ stays for Vissel, and ‘jo’ means women.

The word play combining the two is intended to mimic the sound of the English word ‘vision’.

Vissel’s social networks will focus on publishing and publicizing posts describing stadium experience.

Such content will include news on the food available within the grounds, shopping advice as well as plenty of pictorial content.


Sendai grant Motegi Pro status

Vegalta Sendai announced Shunsuke Motegi had been awarded a full Pro A contract on Saturday, after the winger achieved 450 minutes of action for the club.

The 18-year-old managed the landmark following the game he played against Vissel Kobe in the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup last Wednesday.

Motegi has also featured heavily in Vegalta’s climb to fourth in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, and is the first player in years to have come up from their youth setup and seem capable of making a real impact with the first-team.

The Tokyo native had featured for the Under-12 and Under-15 teams of Kashiwa Reysol before he joined his current club.


Muto and Usami fire Tokyo and Gamba near summit with victories

Yoshinori Muto’s blistering start to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season continued as he scored the winner in FC Tokyo’s 1-0 win at Shonan Bellmare, sending them joint-top of the table.

The Coca-Cola Most Valuable Player in March showed his worth once again in matchday 5, arriving in the box to head in Kosuke Ota’s cross past Bellmare shortly after the hour mark.

Muto’s latest strike gave Tokyo their third consecutive win and drove them level on 11 points with leaders Urawa Reds while taking his tally for the campaign up to four.

The on-form wide man is behind Gamba Osaka hotshot Takashi Usami in the scoring charts however, after the latter plundered his fifth and sixth goal of the season in a 3-2 win at Shimizu S-Pulse.

Usami and strike partner Patric had appeared to cancel their hosts’ plans to celebrate in the event of a win, both scoring either side of the break to put the champions in charge.

But new S-Pulse signing Peter Utaka’s first goal of the season followed by Genki Omae’s temporary equaliser needed Usami to conjure a winner, which the 22-year-old did in the 80th minute.

Gamba’s determined win means they have closed to within a point of Urawa Reds, wiping out the early advantage Mihailo Petrovic had enjoyed over their rivals initially.

The Reds appeared to be headed for defeat at a Kawasaki Frontale seeking their 100th top-flight win at home, with Kentaro Moriya putting the hosts into a 35th-minute lead.

Yet Urawa always looked like coming back, and did so with a minute of regular time left through Zlatan Ljubijankic, though Petrovic could yet lament his side being unable to push on for the win.

Kashima Antlers had played with fire in their 1-1 draw to Albirex Niigata though, Rafael Silva breaking through to net for the visitors i the 41st minute.

But Toninho Cerezo’s gradually-recovering outfit pulled back through Shoma Doi immediately after the restart, making it four straight games without a defeat in all competitions now.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima seem unable to keep up their early-season pace however, after succumbing to a 2-0 loss at Nagoya Grampus, new Japan international Kengo Kawamata amongst the goals on Sunday.

Sagan Tosu - fellow contenders for qualification to the AFC Champions League at the end of the season - capitalised by seeing off Montedio Yamagata 1-0 at Best Amenity Stadium.

Kashiwa Reysol had likewise stormed to a 3-1 victory away to Matsumoto Yamaga earlier, goals from Hidekazu Otani, Tetsuro Ota and Masato Kudo just reward for the clinical visitors.

More goals were on offer as Vissel Kobe put four past basement side Ventforet Kofu, Daisuke Ishizu’s first-half brace spurring Nelsinho’s team to a 4-1 win.

Earlier in the day, Fabio’s 93rd-minute leveller had secured Yokohama F.Marinos a 1-1 draw against Vegalta Sendai.


Albirex seek volunteers for Tokyo match

Albirex Niigata opened applications on Thursday for fans to participate as “Matchday Experience Volunteers” in the club’s upcoming match against FC Tokyo.

The programme was started to immerse parents and their children in the club’s activities, including participation in team preparations ahead of matches.

Participants will join in activities such as setting up corner flags and team benches, as well as handing out fliers to spectators and other stadium volunteer work ahead of proceedings.

The programme is open to elementary school students from the third through to the sixth grade, along with their parents or legal guardians.