Japanese Non-league Football News

Play-offs - First Round Review
Group A featured as favourites Okinawa's FC Ryukyu, newcomers on the non-league scene determined - and financed - to make an impact after having finished second in their first season in the Kyushu League. Up against them were Kanto League champions Luminozo Sayama, experienced at this level of competition and indeed a club who just missed out on a JFL place via the play-offs twelve months ago; and finally the unfancied Hiroshima-based Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku, winners of the Chugoku League and a strong attacking side, but generally felt to be lacking the quality to make the step up from Regional football to the JFL.

27 Nov 05 - A banner in support of FC Ryukyu against Luminozo Sayama

A banner in support of FC Ryukyu against Luminozo Sayama

It was Ryukyu who immediately threw down the gauntlet with a 4-1 win over Luminozo on Friday, the J-League experience and foreign players in their squad making them far too much of a handful for the Honda-backed side from Saitama. Ricardo Higa - Ryukyu's Brazilian-Japanese midfielder formerly with Albirex Niigata and the old incarnation of the Okinawa Kariyushi club - opened the scoring on 35 minutes, soon followed on to the scoresheet by ex-Verdy forward Takashi Seki. Big Brazilian defender Wilson Da Silva then made it three early in the second half and although Luminozo's Takeshi Kishigami pulled one back, Seki wrapped things up with his second of the game five minutes from time.

Ryukyu then made sure of their place in the next stage of the play-offs on Saturday as they eased past Sagawa Kyubin 3-1. Da Silva and Higa in quick succession gave them a two-goal lead mid-way through the first half and another well-travelled J-League player, midfielder Hideki Nagai, scored a third with eleven minutes remaining. Sagawa's only score was a late consolation from the penalty spot, after defender Christiano had handled in the area.

27 Nov 05 - FC Ryukyu's Ricardo Higa

FC Ryukyu's Ricardo Higa

Both the first two matches having been won by Ryukyu, Sunday's fixture was rendered meaningless - but it was Luminozo who ran out 4-1 winners over their inexperienced opponents Sagawa, defender Takashi Kumagai, star forward Yukihiro Hase, former Omiya Ardija youth player Koji Nakai and ex-Shimizu S-Pulse midfielder Shinichiro Sano getting the goals for the Kanto Leaguers.

27 Nov 05 - Takashi Kumagai of Luminozo Sayama

Takashi Kumagai of Luminozo Sayama

27 Nov 05 - The Rosso Army on the march before the game with Fagiano Okayama

The Rosso Army on the march before the game with Fagiano Okayama

Inevitably, the play-offs featured a so-called Group of Death and it was Group B that took on the role this time around, including as it did white-hot favourites Rosso Kumamoto alongside new challengers from the Tohoku League Grulla Morioka and the eager young pups of Fagiano Okayama. Rosso and Grulla in the second match on Saturday was pencilled in as the big match of the whole competition - but the previous day's encounter between Kyushu League champions Rosso and Fagiano set the whole group off to a flying start, striker Teppei Ishikawa stunning the 3500 crowd with a first-minute opener for the Chugoku League side.

It took a full half-hour for Rosso to assert their authority on the match, when Hiroshi Fukushima - a loan signing from J2 high flyers Avispa Fukuoka - levelled things up. Another loan player, Cerezo Osaka's Daisuke Yoneyama, grabbed two in quick succession just before half time and former Consadole Sapporo defender Kazuya Kawabata made it 4-1 soon after the re-start. But Rosso's defence then went to sleep and mid-way through the second period they conceded two, an own goal and one from Fagiano midfielder Kazumasa Fujii, thus setting up a nervy final quarter of the match. Rosso held on to win 4-3, but it was far from the dominant performance their fans had been hoping for.

27 Nov 05 - Shin Asashina heads home for Rosso against Grulla Morioka

Shin Asashina heads home for Rosso against Grulla Morioka

The following day against Grulla, however, the defence had been tightened up considerably and the only goal of a close match came from skipper Shin Asashina's powerful header early in the second half, which was enough to confirm Rosso’s place as group winners. In the Sunday fixture, Grulla recovered from going a goal down to beat Fagiano 2-1 – with scores from star front man Shogo Sakurai and Nagoya Grampus 8 loan signing Tomoya Hirayama - and so stake a realistic claim for a place among the front runners looking for JFL entry in a year's time.

27 Nov 05 - Grulla Morioka's team bus, no less

Grulla Morioka's team bus, no less

27 Nov 05 - Nagano Elsa goalscorer Masaki Koha

Nagano Elsa goalscorer Masaki Kobara

An unknown quantity as far as predictions were concerned was the four-team Group C, which included Hokkaido League big guns Norbritz Hokkaido and Grulla Morioka's joint winners in Tohoku TDK Akita - both of whom competed in the same play-offs last season - together with shock Hokushinetsu League champions Nagano Elsa and JEF United Amateurs, who a year ago were playing Kanto League Division 2 football. TDK were on balance just about the fancied side, and things began well for them as a first half effort from 23-year-old star forward Mitsuhiro Kasuga gave them a 1-0 win over Norbritz. Nagano too had started impressively, as defender Masaki Kobara's free kick put them one up inside the first minute against JEF, but an equaliser came from Danilo early in the second half and in the final ten minutes Elsa collapsed completely, as ex-FC Horikoshi midfielder Danilo completed a hat-trick in a major contribution to a 4-1 win.

27 Nov 05 - Shock Group C winners JEF United Amateurs

Shock Group C winners JEF United Amateurs

On Saturday, Norbritz kept themselves just about in contention as they beat Nagano 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw - thus giving themselves two points to Elsa's one - but TDK must have thought they had a foot in the next round of the competition when they also managed to get past JEF via a penalty shoot-out, in this case 4-3 following a 1-1 draw. The final round of games, however, had a sting in the tail, for while JEF were crushing Norbritz 7-0, TDK conceded an injury time goal to finish tied at 1-1 with Nagano. A 5-4 penalties win was no consolation for the Tohoku side, as it merely meant that they were squeezed out of top spot by surprise package JEF on goal difference rather than on points.

27 Nov 05 - Kanji Nishimura of Banditonce Kobe

Kanji Nishimura of Banditonce Kobe

27 Nov 05 - Under fire Shizuoka FC coach Yoshika Matsubara

Under fire Shizuoka FC coach Yoshika Matsubara

And with JEF United Amateurs shocking fans by making it through to the next round alongside Rosso Kumamoto and FC Ryukyu, there was also a major upset in Group D, where Banditonce Kobe followed their late charge for the Kansai League title by edging out group favourites Shizuoka FC from the Tokai region. Shizuoka began on Friday by beating underdogs Nangoku Kochi from Shikoku 2-0. But disaster struck the following day for coach Yoshika Matsubara when goals from striker Kanji Nishimura and former Kawasaki Frontale defender Ryosuke Kanzaki condemned Shizuoka to a 2-1 defeat and put Banditonce in the driving seat. Nishimura got a further goal on Sunday, along with defender Takayuki Omori, as the club formerly known as Central Kobe overcame Kochi 2-1 to see off Shizuoka – some of whose fans are consequently expressing discontent with Matsubara, suggesting that 2005 has been a wasted year with little progress being made towards the club’s current objective of JFL football.

But this coming weekend, the second stage of the play-offs for 2005 arrive in Okayama, with Rosso Kumamoto, FC Ryukyu, Banditonce Kobe and JEF United Amateurs knowing that a top three finish in the round robin group will give them a place in next season’s expanded JFL. While it’s hard to look further than the Kyushu pairing of Rosso and Ryukyu filling the top two positions, the third place is much more difficult to predict – although some commentators are suggesting that the JFL will not be too keen on the idea of a J-League club’s amateur side reaching such a high level within the pyramid structure anyway. Arguably the most important pair of matches take place on Friday, when Ryukyu and Rosso clash in a match that seems on paper, at least, as if it may decide who actually wins the competition. Later the same day, JEF take on Banditonce knowing that the winner will almost certainly avoid finishing bottom of the group. The JFL beckons.

Here’s the full fixture list for the final stage:

02/12/2005 FC Ryukyu – Rosso Kumamoto
02/12/2005 JEF United Amateurs – Banditonce Kobe
03/12/2005 FC Ryukyu – JEF United Amateurs
03/12/2005 Rosso Kumamoto – Banditonce Kobe
04/12/2005 FC Ryukyu – Banditonce Kobe
04/12/2005 Rosso Kumamoto – JEF United Amateurs

Play-offs - 27/11/2005
Group A

Luminozo Sayama 4-1 Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku
Takashi Kumagai, Yukihiro Hase, Koji Nakai and Shinichiro Sano scored for Luminozo Sayama

Group B

Fagiano Okayama 1-2 Grulla Morioka
40 1-0 Ryan Kyu Sa
70' 1-1 Shogo Sakurai
80' 1-2 Tomoya Hirayama

Group C
Nagano Elsa 1-1 TDK Akita (PK 4-5)
19' 0-1 富樫
89' 1-1 Koide

JEF United Amateurs 7-0 Norbritz Hokkaido

Group D
Nangoku Kochi 1-2 Banditonce Kobe
Kanji Nishimura and Takayuki Omori scored for Banditonce

Final Rankings

Group A

1. FC Ryukyu 6pts (GD +5)
2. Luminozo Sayama 3 (-)
3. Sagawa Kyubin Chugoku 0 (-5)

Group B

1. Rosso Kumamoto 6pts (+2)
2. Grulla Morioka 3 (-)
3. Fagiano Okayama 0 (-2)

Group C

1. JEF United Amateurs 7pts (GD +10)
2. TDK Akita 7pts (GD +1)
3. Norbritz Hokkaido 2 (-8)
4. Nagano Elsa 2 (-3)

Group D

1. Banditonce Kobe 6pts (+2)
2. Shizuoka FC 3pts (+1)
3. Nangoku Kochi 0 (-3)

A penalty shoot-out follows any drawn match, with two points being awarded to the winner and one to the loser.

JEF United Amateurs and Banditonce Kobe therefore join FC Ryukyu and Rosso Kumamoto in the next round, a round robin group. The top three will be promoted to the JFL.
Ehime FC Confirm J2 Spot
Ehime FC today confirmed their promotion to J2 for 2006 with a 3-1 win at Honda FC, while their nearest rivals YKK AP were dropping points at Honda Lock.

But the fate of the Matsuyama-based outfit was in its own hands, as they went into the game knowing that three points would give them the required top two finish and, although defender Masayuki Ishii gave Honda the lead at the end of the first half, an own goal plus strikes from Toshiya Tanaka and midfield stalwart Kazuhisa Hamaoka in the last quarter of an hour clinched the victory for the men in orange.

27 Nov 05 - Ehime

Ehime FC's Toshiro Tomochika celebrates with the fans as promotion to J2 is confirmed

Click on JFL Results under Category for all the scores, plus the latest league table.
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