Schillaci amongst Juve Legends to face Kyushu Legends in Japan

Sagan Tosu on Wednesday announced details for the match between Kyushu Legends and Juventus Legends, to be held on 4th May.

The Kyushu Legends team comprises former J.League players who once played for Kyushu clubs, as well as players who hail from the region.

Former Sagan Tosu goalkeeper Takuya Muro and forward Tatsunori Arai (FW) have now been confirmed for Kyushu Legends.

They will face a squad of veteran counterparts from legendary Italian club Juventus, led by Salvatore Schillaci, who finished his career at Jubilo Iwata.

Schillaci will be joined by fellow illustrious names such as David Trezeguet, Fabrizio Ravanelli, and Paolo Montero at Best Amenity Stadium.


Antlers fall just short in ACL with thrilling 4-3 defeat

Kashima Antlers played out an epic against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday, only losing 4-3 to the Group H leaders.

The J.League giants had all their games entering this fixture and their hopes took an early hit when Ricardo Goulart scored the opener for the hosts.

Yet Hiroyuki Takasaki and Shoma Doi turned up with goals either side of half time to put the Antlers into an unexpected lead and show there was still fight left in the struggling side.

The events galvanised the visitors for a stretch but they were powerless to prevent Goulart’s second plus goals from Elkeson and Zhao Xuri who put Guangzhou 4-2 up at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.

Gaku Shibasaki’s stoppage time header was Kashima’s attempt to reply but the 4-3 final scoreline still leaves them bottom of Group H and on the brink of elimination.

“We just couldn't convert our chances into goals,” lamented coach Toninho Cerezo, summing up a dire start to the 2015 season.

Gamba Osaka fared little better in their 1-1 draw with Buriram United, throwing away a golden opportunity to move off the bottom of Group F by capitalising on Guangzhou R&F’s earlier defeat.

Hiroyuki Abe put the J.League champions into the lead with a predatory finish but Gamba failed to hold out and were pegged back by Theerathon Bunmathan’s free-kick.

“I must say that the situation is tough but with one win, we can get on the right track,” Kenta Hasegawa reflected, although his side have yet to fully convince this term.

Kashima Antlers next play Guangzhou Evergrande on 7 April, with Gamba to play in Thailand against Group F’s leaders on the same day.


Kawamata leads Grampus to 3-1 win at Frontale in Yamazaki Nabisco Cup

Both Nagoya Grampus and Montedio Yamagata got off to strong starts in Group B of the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup on Wednesday.

Grampus fought back to win 3-1 at Kawasaki Frontale despite going a goal down due to last season’s J.League top scorer Yoshito Okubu’s header.

Kensuke Nagai pulled the visitors level but the show belonged to team-mate Kengo Kawamata when he scored twice in the second half to wow the travelling support and Japan boss Vahid Halilhodzic, who was in the stands looking for candidates for his next national squad.

Meanwhile, Yamagata went in front against Shimizu S-Pulse thanks to Shun Ito, only for the visitors to equalise.

But the result was never in doubt as Yuki Nakashima put the hosts back in the lead before an own goal sealed a 3-1 win.

Vegalta Sendai’s unspectacular 1-0 win over Yokohama F.Marinos thanks to Wilson’s 26th minute strike helped Susumu Watanabe’s men finish level at the top of Group B.

In Group A, FC Tokyo beat Albirex Niigata 2-1 despite conceding in the 2nd minute, as Naohiro Ishikawa and Yohei Hayashi helped the capital club earn all three points.

Sagan Tosu needed Kim Min Hyeok’s last-gasp winner to down Matsumoto Yamaga 2-1 in a dramatic final 10 minutes of the game.

Last season’s MEIJI YASUDA J2 League champions Shonan Bellmare ensured their strong start to the season continued with a routine 1-0 victory over Ventforet Kofu.

The Nabisco Cup’s resumes in its second matchday on 28 March.


Reysol win leaves them into strong position to progress from ACL group

Kashiwa Reysol moved a step closer to progressing from the AFC Champions League group stages with their determined 2-1 victory over Shandong Luneng on Wednesday.

Kosuke Taketomi fired Reysol into a deserved lead from a rebound in the 23rd minute as the hosts dominated, only for their Chinese opponents to reply through Walter Montillo in the second period.

But Naoki Wako’s 92nd minute header broke the stubborn resistance of the visitors, pushing the 2013 ACL semi-finalists to second in Group E and setting them up nicely for the 22nd April showdown with leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

“It was a tough game but our players were not afraid of taking risks and made great efforts today,” said coach Tatsuma Yoshida.

Goalkeeper Kazushige Kirihata and defender Tatsuya Masushima face two and seven months on the sidelines respectively after injuries picked up in this match, however.

Few words of praise went Urawa Red Diamonds’ way in their 2-0 defeat at Beijing Guoan, their third consecutive loss leaving the J.League leaders bottom of Group G.

Beijing’s Pablo Batalla and Yu Dabao struck twice in the final 15 minutes to expose a poor defensive display from the Reds.

“Though we lost the first two games, I hadn't felt we were the worse team. Today was the same, we were not the worst one on the pitch, but the reality is that we still lost,” sighed Mihailo Petrovic, whose side cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to progress to the next stages.

Gamba Osaka and the troubled Kashima Antlers will likewise face similar tests to their mettle in their ACL games on Wednesday evening.

Japanese champions Gamba are seeking a win against Group F leaders Buriram United to show qualification is not out of their hands yet, while Kashima Antlers will hope to salvage a disastrous start to their season with a good showing at Guangzhou Evergrande.


Female Manager Sato to promote J2

J.League Female Manager Miki Sato will attend the MEIJI YASUDA J2 League match between Tochigi SC and JEF United Chiba on Sunday.

Sato won the Grand Prize at the Horipro Talent Scout Caravan 2013, and has been actively promoting the 2015 J.League season after being appointed in her role this year.

Tochigi head into matchday 3 ranked 16th, after taking just a single point from the previous two matches.

On the other hand, promotion hopefuls Chiba have won both their games so far and sit third in the table alongside Jubilo Iwata and Fagiano Okayama.


Ueslei to represent Sanfrecce in talk battle with Reds

Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Urawa Red Diamonds have announced a “talk battle” between past players of the two clubs in the build-up to their league game this Sunday.

The first “battle” will pit Sanfrecce’s Koji Nakajima against Reds representative Takeshi Mizu’uchi, with Kazuya Nakano hosting.

The second will see Mizu’uchi then face off with former Sanfrecce striker Ueslei, who was a prolific scorer in Japan between 2006 and 2007. Yasutaka Yoshida will act as presenter.

Sanfrecce and the Reds have renewed their rivalry this season, with both leading the table on six points ahead of the showdown.

Urawa currently boast a handful of former Sanfrecce players in their ranks, while present boss Mihailo Petrovic coached the latter between 2006 and 2011.

The J.League giants won the same fixture 2-0 last season.


Albirex announce continued Ticket Alliance participation

Albirex Niigata announced that they will continue to be a member in the J.League Ticket Alliance throughout the 2015 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season on Sunday.

The Alliance was formed to aid fans who travelled to support their team by allowing them to purchase tickets for away matches at their home stadium.

Other 2015 Ticket Alliance members include Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers, Vegalta Sendai, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kawasaki Frontale, Yokohama F. Marinos, Shonan Bellmare, Ventforet Kofu, Shimizu S-Pulse and Nagoya Grampus.


Gamba sell limited-edition tickets for do-or-die ACL game

Gamba Osaka have announced that sales of limited edition tickets for Wednesday’s AFC Champions League clash with Buriram United have begun.

The unique tickets for matchday 3 of the ACL are available at Expo '70 Commemorative Stadium’s ticket booth in a number of original designs.

Buyers are also entitled to enjoy “Weeknight Ticket Discount,” allowing fans unable to make the 19:00 kick-off time a chance to enjoy the second half at a reduced rate.

Gamba currently sit bottom of Group F without a single point, having lost games to China’s Guangzhou R&F and Korea’s Seongnam FC.

The Japanese champions entertain Buriram knowing nothing less than a win will be enough to see them progress.

Kenta Hasegawa’s men have also stuttered defending their J.League crown, picking up a solitary point in two games played so far.


Vissel gear up for Tokyo test with friendly victory

Vissel Kobe defeated Hannan University in a 2-0 result in a training match on Monday.

The friendly test was played over two 30-minute halves at Ibukinomori Field, with Brazilian striker Marquinhos scoring in the 21st and 58th minutes.

Marquinhos was Vissel’s top scorer last term with 14 goals, and climbed to third in the J.League scoring charts.

The 38-year-old veteran will hope to break his duck this season against FC Tokyo this Sunday, after being left on the bench in his side’s 2-2 draw at Kawasaki Frontale last weekend.


New entrant Renofa Yamaguchi kick off in MEIJI YASUDA J3 League

Japan’s third division, the MEIJI YASUDA J3 League, kicked off its second season on Sunday.

The league features 13 teams, one of which is the Japanese Under-22 national team selection.

Amongst the teams playing the six fixtures was new club Renofa Yamaguchi FC, the only new club admitted to J.League in 2015.

They played their first home game at Ishin Memorial Park Stadium in front of more than 7,000 spectators, and defeated Gainare Tottori 2-1.

The league finishes on 23rd November after 39 rounds, with the top two teams holding a MEIJI YASUDA J2 League license eligible to earn promotion to the next tier.

The MEIJI YASUDA J3 League winner automatically gains promotion at the expense of the last-placed MEIJI YASUDA J2 League side, while the MEIJI YASUDA J3 League runners’ up while battle the 21st-placed MEIJI YASUDA J2 League side in a promotion/relegation playoff.

If either or both top two MEIJI YASUDA J3 League finishers are ineligible for promotion, the promotion/relegation process will be suspended in accordance to the exact positions of promotion-eligible clubs.

The Japan U-22 side is not eligible to gain promotion regardless of their finishing berth.


Shonan Bellmare outrun Kashima Antlers in Saturday upset, reveals Live Tracking system

Shonan Bellmare ran the most during their 2-1 away victory over Kashima Antlers, according to data from the J.League.

The top flight’s Live Tracking system has released a set of statistics from the first matchday of the new season.

Bellmare covered 127.71km as a team at Kashima Soccer Stadium on Saturday and it paid off as the minnows outran and outplayed their hosts to notch their first win this season.

The Antlers actually took second place in the standings for distance covered at 123.05km, but fans will be particularly anxious over a perceived lack of spine in the giants.

Gamba Osaka collectively covered just 106.23km this weekend and fell to Sagan Tosu as a result, allowing early pacesetters Urawa Reds to race into a five-point lead over them.

Shonan Bellmare forward Kaoru Takayama put in an impressive shift for his side, running 13.67km, while Vegalta Sendai’s Hidetaka Kanazono and Takayama’s team-mate Daisuke Kikuchi came in second and third respectively.

The player who sprinted the most at speeds above 24km per hour was Vissel Kobe midfielder Keijiro Ogawa, while the team that sprinted most collectively was Albirex Niigata, at 244.

The J.League’s Live Tracking system can be accessed from its official website.


King Kazu extends record as oldest player in J.League

Yokohama FC’s Kazuyoshi Miura extended his record as oldest player to play in the J.League when he featured in the the MEIJI YASUDA J2 League game on Sunday.

“King Kazu” started the game versus Tochigi SC remarkably aged 48 years and 17 days old, and lasted until the 64th minute before being substituted.

Both teams went on to draw 1-1, Makoto Sugimoto levelling the match for Yokohama after Tochigi opened the scoring.

Miura is embarking on his 29th season in professional football and has settled down in Yokohama since the 2006 season after spells in Italy, Croatia and Australia.


Reds go top as Antlers fall flat again

Urawa Reds are threatening to build a significant lead over their J.League title rivals after they ground out a 1-0 win over Montedio Yamagata on Saturday, while a full-blown crisis is erupting at Kashima Antlers.

Reds captain Yuki Abe’s ferociously struck winner in the 83rd minute left Montedio keeper and former Urawa veteran Norihiro Yamagishi with no chance, finally ending the visitors’ stubborn resistance.

Though victory was far less comprehensive for last season’s runners’ up on this occasion, Urawa’s perfect record so far means they have already built up a healthy five-point lead over Gamba Osaka.

Kenta Hasegawa’s men travelled to title outsiders Sagan Tosu later on in hopes of maintaining the pace, but Baek Sung Dong’s goal right after half time wrecked the champions’ hopes.

A fairly low-key matchday 2 was still kept dramatic as Kashima Antlers’ terrible start to the season continued with a spineless 1-2 home loss to Shonan Bellmare.

After three straight losses in all competitions, the fallen giants finally appeared to be on the road to redemption in front of their supporters when Mu Kanazaki fired home in the 13th minute.

But promoted Bellmare kept up the pressure on their hosts and were duly rewarded when Wataru Endo - who already scored against Urawa last week - turned home a 54th minute equaliser, setting the stage perfectly for Alison’s stoppage-time sucker punch.

Endo is joined on two goals by last year’s most prolific marksman Yoshito Okubo, who scored again as Kawasaki Frontale came back from behind twice to draw 2-2 against Vissel Kobe at Todoroki Stadium.

Earlier, Yoshinori Muto had not managed to hit the heights of his previous week’s brace as Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic watched FC Tokyo play out a goalless stalemate with Yokohama F.Marinos.

Ventforet Kofu managed to pick up their first points of the season by beating Nagoya Grampus 1-0, after relegation rivals Shimizu S-Pulse failed to find the breakthrough Albirex Niigata even though new signings Peter Utaka and Mitchell Duke came off the bench in the second period.

Finally, Sanfrecce Hiroshima look like they will breeze to mid-table safety again this term, after Koji Morisaki’s finish saw them dispose of Matsumo Yamaga 2-1 and jump up to second in the table.


Yamaga U-15 coach Narita resigns

Matsumoto Yamaga announced the resignation of Under-15 manager Isaku Narita on Friday.

The 37-year-old first joined the club in 2006, managing the U-15, U-14, and U-13 teams at various points.

“I’m thankful for the support I’ve received from the Yamaga family over the last 10 years,” Narita said in a statement posted to the club’s website.

“I want to use everything I’ve learned at the club to set off on a new challenge.

“I’m proud to have been a part of Matsumoto Yamaga.”


Albirex’s Fitzgerald out for one month

Albirex Niigata announced on Friday that defender Michael James Fitzgerald will need three to four weeks to recover from injury.

The 26-year-old sustained the injury in his side’s opening day loss at Sagan Tosu on March 7.

Fitzgerald, who made three appearances for New Zealand’s national team, acquired Japanese citizenship in 2013.

He has made 47 appearances for Albirex since returning to the club permanently from a series of loans in August 2013.

The stopper’s return will be a timely boost for coach Masaaki Yanagishita, given the outfit currently sit 15th in the league with just one point from two matches.


Late Suzuki goal salvages point for Reysol

A late equaliser by Daisuke Suzuki helped Kashiwa Reysol draw 1-1 with Vegalta Sendai and stave off a shock home defeat on Friday.

Vegalta went into half time of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League 2nd Sec tie in the lead thanks to a 31st-minute goal by Hirofumi Watanabe, who joined Vegalta this winter.

But the Tohoku side were reduced to ten men after striker Ramon Lopes was shown a second yellow card in the 76th minute, allowing Reysol to press forward and eventually level the score through defender Suzuki’s effort in the 89th minute.

The match was attended by 9,082 fans at Kashiwa Stadium, and held a day earlier than the rest of the weekend’s J1 fixtures in order to accommodate Reysol’s upcoming AFC Champions League fixture against Shandong Luneng this coming Tuesday.


Sanfrecce announce bus tour for Grampus match

Sanfrecce Hiroshima have now announced a bus tour for fans wishing to attend their MEIJI YASUDA J1 League match at Nagoya Grampus on 12 April.

The tour to Aichi Prefecture can accommodate a maximum of 40 fans, and will cost 21,800 yen for adults, or 19,200 yen for fans 18 years or younger.

Participants who have already secured a ticket to the First Stage Round 5 match at Toyota Stadium will also enjoy a discount of up to 2,300 yen.

The club kicked off their J.League campaign with a 2-0 win over Ventforet Kofu last weekend, and will face Matsumoto Yamagata next on Saturday.


Forlan announces international retirement

Cerezo Osaka striker Diego Forlan announced his retirement from international duty in a press conference on Thursday.

The 35-year-old will end his career for Uruguay having appeared in three World Cups and won the 2011 Copa America, scoring 36 goals in 112 appearances in the process.

Forlan, who represented Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Inter in his club career, will now focus solely on his J.League adventure.

“This was a difficult decision, but I felt that the time has come to make it,” the striker told reporters at Cerezo House.

“I consulted my family, and before making my decision public I spoke with [coach Oscar] Tabarez as well as my Uruguay teammates.

“I’m blessed to have appeared in three World Cups and three Copa Americas; the 2010 World Cup remains the pinnacle of my footballing career.

“We achieved a fourth place finish, I won the Golden Boot and was named MVP, and my goal against Germany was named the best goal of the tournament.”


Albirex,S-Pulse to host Ganbarou Tohoku SMILE PROJECT booth

Albirex Niigata announced the opening of a charity booth to support 2011 earthquake victims for their match against Shimizu S-Pulse.

Fans who visit the Ganbarou Tohoku SMILE PROJECT corner will be able to learn about the non-profit organisation’s efforts to support reconstruction in the northeastern region of Tohoku following the Great East Japan Earthquake four years ago.

The booth will be open at the base of the E Gate stairwell at Denka Swan Stadium from 10:00 to 12:30 local time on Saturday, and will feature events such as presentations on the organisation’s humanitarian activities and the display of letters from children in the Tohoku region.


Clubs honour memory of Tohoku

Vegalta Sendai, Fukushima United and Grulla Morioka were amongst the clubs that remembered the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on Wednesday.

The clubs published memorial messages on their website for the fourth anniversary of the 11th March disaster, which claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people and sparked the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.

Seismic effects also destroyed infrastructure in the northern region of Japan, with the Yurtec Stadium, home to Vegalta Sendai, damaged and declared unsafe till several weeks after.

Following the tragedy, Japanese football has regularly organised yearly charity matches to support the areas damaged of 2011.

The first of these games was played in Osaka on 29 March 2011 and saw the Japan national team face a J.League selection.

2012’s match featured Alessandro Del Piero as a special guest.