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Sunday, March 18, 2007

JEF, Antlers battle to draw


Staff writer

CHIBA -- Amar Osim and Oswaldo Oliveira can breathe a little easier -- for now at least.

News photo
Urawa Reds forward Washington scores his second goal in the 69th minute during the J. League first-division match against Ventforet Kofu at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Saturday. Reds won 2-0. KYODO PHOTO

The coaches each collected their first point of the new J. League campaign after JEF United Chiba and Kashima Antlers drew 3-3 in a wildly entertaining game on Saturday afternoon.

JEF's Nabisco Cup victory last year has been the exception to Osim's rule, with a poor league showing in 2006 exacerbated by two straight defeats at the start of this season.

New Kashima coach Oliveira, too, had seen the star-studded Antlers lose their first two matches and both coaches were desperate to break their duck at Fukuda Denshi Arena.

With the score 2-2 at the break due to the porous defenses of both teams, JEF's new Serbian defender Nenad Djordjevic smashed the ball in from close range following a goalmouth melee a minute into the second period.

Hopes of a JEF win were dashed, however, when Antlers striker Marquinhos scored his second of the game nine minutes later, Atsushi Yanagisawa crossing from the right for his forward partner to roll the ball in despite being horizontal after falling to the ground.

The teams pushed for the win in a breathless last 15 minutes, with both desperate for three points, but it ended all square.

"I would have said at halftime it was one point gained for us, but in the second half we played a lot better and I think it was two points lost," said Djordjevic.

Oliveira felt his side deserved the three points but was relieved at picking up the first point of the season after two 1-0 defeats.

"We have finally started scoring goals and really should have kept control of the game," said Oliveira. "But we defended poorly from set pieces -- but at least we didn't lose."

Later Saturday, Kawasaki Frontale thrashed FC Yokohama 6-0 to move into second, with Gamba beating Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-0, the Osakans moving top of the table with the maximum points after three games.

Kashima had the lion's share of possession in the early stages in front of 14,814, despite JEF having the best chance when Tatsunori Arai's header hit the bar, but the Antlers finally were awarded for their possession when Marquinhos tapped in on 24 minutes after a cross from Atsuto Uchida.

The goal bucked up JEF's ideas and the hosts hit back after a minute when Naotake Hanyu's clever feet on the edge of the area gave him the space for a shot woefully misjudged by 'keeper Hitoshi Sogahata, who flapped at the ball before it nestled in the net.

JEF went ahead three minutes later, Hanyu beginning a flowing move with a raking ball leftward into the path of Arai, whose cross was brilliantly dummied by Seiichiro Maki, allowing Koki Mizuno to sweep the ball into the net.

Back and forth it went. Four minutes to the break, Kashima drew level when Masaki Chugo curled a free-kick up and over the JEF wall and into the bottom right-hand corner of 'keeper Masahiro Okamoto's goal.

Meanwhile, Vissel Kobe notched an impressive 4-1 win away to Yokohama F. Marinos.

Earlier on Saturday, Brazilian striker Washington scored twice as Urawa Reds moved to seven points with a 2-0 win at Saitama Stadium against Ventforet Kofu, who had spirited goalie Kensaku Abe to thank for keeping the score down.

Reds' opener on 58 minutes was made in Brazil, Robson Ponte releasing Marcus Tulio Tanaka down the left with a back heel, the central defender sending in an exquisite low cross and Washington gobbling up from close range.

Ponte turned provider 12 minutes later when his curled cross from the left landed perfectly for Washington. Abe made a spectacular save on the striker's first shot, but Washington followed up with a simple side foot into an empty net.

Japan Under-22 striker Tadanari Ri scored on 67 minutes to give Reysol a 1-0 win away to Shimizu, ending S-Pulse's perfect start to the season.



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