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Monday, Oct. 24, 2011

Avispa relegated after one season in top flight


NIIGATA — Avispa Fukuoka were relegated to the J. League second division for their third time following a 3-1 away defeat to Albirex Niigata on Sunday.

News photo
Losing battle: Avispa's Hisashi Jogo (right) competes for the ball with Albirex's Daisuke Suzuki on Sunday. KYODO

Dead-last Avispa, the first J1 club to be sent down this year, were taken off life support with four games left in the season after suffering their 22nd defeat in 30 matches as Isao Homma struck only two minutes into the game at Big Swan stadium.

Cho Young Cheol scored a second-half brace to put the game out of reach for Tetsuya Asano's side, which pulled one back with two minutes remaining through Yutaka Takahashi.

The loss guaranteed Avispa a bottom-three finish, keeping them on 18 points — 14 points behind 15th-place Urawa Reds. Fukuoka returns to J2 next season after spending just a year in the top flight.

Asano said Homma's early strike all but doomed his team, which has scored all of 25 goals this season.

"I can't apologize enough to the supporters who believed in us to the very end and came all the way out to Niigata," Asano said. "The match was going to be difficult for us if we let them score first and we conceded right after kickoff. That was the turning point."

Asano admitted Avispa, who have a minus-39 goal difference, simply lack what it takes to retain a first-division place.

Fukuoka started off the season with a nine-match losing streak and did not win its first game until July 2. It won four more times after then, but it proved not to be enough.

"In terms of skill, individual quality and team tactics, we couldn't match up against the other teams," said Asano, who took over from Yoshiyuki Shinoda in August.

"Just look at the number of goals we have conceded, the mistakes we made, the possession we gave away. As a team and as individuals, we did not do enough to cut down on our margin of errors," he said.

Added defender Daiki Niwa, "We have no one to blame other than ourselves and we have to face up to reality. It's disappointing to be going down after one year.

"All those games we lost early on really hurt."

At Outsourcing Stadium in Shizuoka Prefecture, Shimizu S-Pulse dealt relegation-threatened Ventforet Kofu a painful defeat, comprehensively beating the visitors 3-0.

Japan youth international Toshiyuki Takagi set the tone with the opener in the 36th minute before former national team midfielder Shinji Ono padded out the lead for the hosts with a deflected strike moments before halftime.

Six minutes past the hour, Genki Omae hammered the nail in Kofu's coffin with his eighth goal of the campaign as Afshin Ghotbi's side won for the third time in five games to climb up to seventh place.

"It was my goal in the end, but the buildup before it was everything," said the 20-year-old Takagi, who netted for the second time this season. "I just got a great ball from Genki."

"We still have four games left and our plan is to win all four of them," he said.

Ventforet lost for the second time in their last three matches, staying in the drop zone on 30 points, two points behind Reds who won 2-1 at Yokohama F. Marinos the previous day.

"When we went back and saw our past games against Shimizu, they always dominated possession," Kofu coach Satoru Sakuma said. "We settled for several half-chances because our final pass just wasn't accurate enough."

"I thought we would concede one, but that second goal really hurt us," he said.

Elsewhere in J1, Cerezo Osaka crushed Jubilo Iwata 4-0 away in a mid-table duel at Yamaha Stadium.

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