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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Frontale outplay Reysol, earn win on Juninho's 84th-minute penalty


KAWASAKI — Kawasaki Frontale set up Kashiwa Reysol's fall from the top of the J. League first division with a 3-2 win against Nelsinho's side at home on Saturday evening.

News photo
Off the ground: Frontale defender Kosuke Kikuchi (left) and Reysol midfielder Junya Tanaka vie for the ball during Saturday's match in Kawasaki. Kawasaki beat Kashiwa 3-2. KYODO PHOTO

The J1 leaders did well to catch up from two down at halftime with a Kosuke Kikuchi own goal and Leandro Domingues' sixth strike of the year, but gave away a late penalty as well as the three points to Naoki Soma's charges.

Kashiwa stood on 34 points at the halfway point of the season, just one point ahead of second-place Yokohama F. Marinos, who are at Omiya Ardija on Sunday.

Frontale moved up to third on 30 points ahead of champions Nagoya Grampus on goal difference.

Kawasaki, up by two after first-half goals from Takuro Yajima and Yu Kobayashi, were without veteran midfielders Kengo Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto due to injury for their first game against Kashiwa since the 2009 season.

The visitors were coming off a thorough midweek home win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but were staring at a deficit by the fifth minute at Todorki Stadium.

Kashiwa defender Tatsuya Masushima appeared to have things under control in the area when Takanobu Komiyama, the left-back for Kawasaki, lashed out from a good 25 meters. But Masushima couldn't hold off his man, Yajima, who quickly turned on the loose ball to stake the hosts to an early lead with his fifth strike of the season.

Reysol conceded another clumsy goal in the 31st minute when Hiroki Sakai stumbled over a right-wing Koji Yamase cross, giving Kobayashi a free shot from the edge of the six-yard box to put Frontale up 2-0.

Kashiwa didn't produce a single shot on target in the first half, but had evened the score by the 71st minute as Sakai created their two goals.

Sakai first triggered Kikuchi's own goal after 54 minutes with a cross from the right before picking out Leandro Domingues for the equalizer with another deadly ball from his wing.

Yet with six minutes to play, Kawasaki regained the advantage as substitute Satoshi Kikuno won a penalty off defender Naoya Kondo.

Juninho converted with ease for his third goal of what is looking like another turbulent campaign in the J. League.

Elsewhere in J1, Ventforet Kofu dealt Gamba Osaka their first defeat in seven games, climbing out of the drop zone with a 4-3 victory at home over the former Asian champions. Mike Havenaar scored on either side of halftime for Kofu, who sent idle Kashima Antlers to 16th place with their second from the last three matches.

Former Japan striker Naohiro Takahara struck a dramatic, 90th-minute winner in Shimizu's 2-1 home win to Albirex Niigata. S-Pulse have just lost once over an 11-game stretch. Vissel Kobe swept past Cerezo Osaka 4-1 in the Kansai derby.

Copa America heats up

Buenos Aires AP

Fans bombarded Lionel Messi with jeers and graphic profanities last week in a disorganized 0-0 draw against Colombia, illustrating what his father Jorge called the "terrible pressure" on the Barcelona star at home during the Copa America.

It could get even uglier if Argentina loses to Uruguay on Saturday in a quarterfinal being played in the northern city of Santa Fe, the same venue as last week's debacle and just a short drive from Messi's birthplace in Rosario.

This is supposed to be the tournament Argentina wins to end an 18-year drought without a major international title. But its small neighbor across the River Plate estuary stands in the way with almost the same team that reached last year's World Cup semifinals.

"Against Uruguay, this is a final," said Messi, who has not scored for Argentina in his last 15 competitive internationals, including the Copa America, World Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

The other three weekend quarterfinals offer more regional intrigue. Colombia faces Peru on Saturday, before two-time defending champion Brazil plays Paraguay and Venezuela takes on Chile on Sunday.

The final is July 24, and that's the first time Argentina and Brazil could meet.

Messi and Argentina redeemed themselves on Monday, defeating Costa Rica 3-0. After two miserable opening games, coach Sergio Batista dropped Messi back into a playmaker role. He dribbled and turned just as he does at Barcelona, threading passes to forwards Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria.

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