Fukuoka relegated from J.League

Avispa Fukuoka became the first team to be relegated to the second division next season when they crashed to mid-table Albirex Niigata 3-1 in the J.League today. With four more games left, Fukuoka have only 18 points and are back in the lower division after a year among Japan's elite. They have won only five times this season. Montedio Yamagata and Ventforet Kofu, both heavy losers at the weekend, are the other sides currently in the drop zone.

"My players did their job very well throughout the season," said Fukuoka coach Tetsuya Asano, who was appointed in August following disastrous results in the first half of the season. "We will just try to do our best for the remainder of the season," added Asano, looking forward to the last four games and the Emperor's Cup.

Korea Republic striker Cho Young-Cheol scored twice and assisted another to lead Niigata to victory. Ventforet went down to Shimizu S-Pulse 3-0 as Toshiyuki Takagi, former Japanese international Shinji Ono and Genki Omae each netted.

In the other game today, defender Takahiro Ogihara scored a double to help Cerezo Osaka thrash Jubilo Iwata 4-0. Yesterday, Kashiwa Reysol defeated Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1 to keep a two-point lead at the top of the table. Gamba Osaka, winners over Montedio Yamagata 5-0, are second.