Hiroshima were able to waltz away with the three points yesterday when Cerezo were reduced to 10 man after a controversial penalty decision. Already leading 2-nil Hiroshima didn`t need any favours but were happy to accept when one came their way (as any self respecting professional would). In the 40th minute midfielder Kohei Shimizu was fed a great through ball into the box but knowing a contest for possession was about to ensue Shimizu veered toward his opponent and upon contact fell to the ground as if hit by a truck. And that was all she wrote as J League topscorer Hisato Sato stepped up to convert from the spot.
Hiroshima manager Hajime Moriyasu appeared humble in accepting the title along with the players. Moriyasu said “I took over for a great manager and I admit there was some pressure following in his footsteps . . .” He went on to dedicate the title to current Urawa Reds manager Mihailo Pietrovic who Moriyasu says, laid the foundations at the club over six years. Champion striker Hisato Sato was typically humble as well saying, “This has happened because of all the fans that came to the stadium and watched us on television.” The striker was even apologetic when he referred to the team`s brand of soccer.
Meanwhile the race for an ACL spot has exploded. There are five teams battling for the final J League offered ACL entry ticket. Sagan Tosu have shocked all by putting themselves at the forefront of the race with their shock win over Urawa. The Reds look desperately in need of an injection of hardness after falling short in the last month against teams they were expected to beat (Kawasaki Frontale 2-4, Cerezo Osaka 0-0). Urawa will host Nagoya at home in Saitama but both teams will be hanging on the result of the Sagan Tosu v Yokohama F Marinos match. Incredibly F Marinos could possibly steal away with the ACL spot on goal difference despite being 3 points adrift of Sagan Tosu. Perhaps the best placed team though is Kashiwa who face Kashima Antlers who have nothing to play for. For Kashiwa a win is enough provided that Urawa don`t win by a landslide five goal margin and Sagan Tosu get anything but a win against Yokohama.
All that is decided December 1st with kick off of all matches at 3:30pm Japan time. Don`t forget the relegation battle involving Niigata 37, Gamba 38, Kobe 39 and Cerezo Osaka 41. Two teams must be deleted from J1 existence with Consodole Sapporo already condemned. It would truly be a miracle for Niigata or Gamba to scrape out of relegation having been sat in the bottom three for the majority of the season, but in Niigata`s favour is the fact they face Consadole. Give them the three points now. Just like Gamba their fate rests in the hands of the football gods.