Titles claimed in east, Roar run ends
The championships in Japan and Korea Republic were finally claimed over the weekend, albeit by clubs with contrasting backgrounds. In Japan, new faces Kashiwa Reysol held off stubborn challengers to have their name etched onto the J.League trophy for the first time, while Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Motors, runaway leaders during the league season, duly claimed their second title in three years. In Australia, Brisbane Roar suffered defeat for the first time in nearly 15 months but still have a grip on top spot.
FIFA.com also rounds up the latest action in the OFC O-League, while we also take in Qatar, where it was another bad weekend for Al Sadd as they prepare for their tilt at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011, and the United Arab Emirates.
Japan’s J.League: The sun finally reaches its zenith
Kashiwa Reysol are the kings of Japanese football after maintaining their lead in an exciting conclusion to the season that could have seen the title won by any of three clubs. Kashiwa, though, maintained their long-held status at the top as the club became the first in the J.League's 19-year history to win the title in their first year after winning the second tier competition. The Sun Kings claimed their first top-flight title, having only previously claimed the J.League Cup in 1999, after cruising to a 3-1 win at Urawa Red Diamonds. The result rendered the 1-0 win by champions Nagoya Grampus at Albirex Niigata, and Gamba Osaka’s 3-1 victory at Shimizu S-Pulse, meaningless.
Big game: All eyes were on a sold-out Saitama stadium where 10,000 travelling Kashiwa fans were in attendance hoping to see Urawa play little more than a bit part. So it proved, although Urawa pulled a goal back to briefly make it 2-1 and provide a glimmer of hope to Nagoya and Gamba, the unlikely figure of Akira Barada then wrapped up the scoring for Kashiwa with his first of the season. The domestic crown also saw Kashiwa win through to the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup which commences later this week in Japan.
Headline-grabber: Kashiwa’s Brazilian ace Leandro Domingues was involved in all three of his team's goals against Urawa. The attacking midfielder ended the year with 15 goals in 30 appearances, to be the third top scorer, with Nagoya’s Josh Kennedy the league’s leading marksman.
Australia’s A-League: Sydney roars loudest
It took 455 days and 36 matches but Brisbane Roar have finally tasted defeat. Sydney FC claimed the honour of toppling the champions, with an unusually subdued Brisbane falling behind after 36 seconds as Dimitrios Petratos scored, with Brett Emerton adding a second. It was a surprise return to form for Sydney after consecutive defeats. “One in a row,” quipped Sky Blues defender Shannon Cole. “The run starts here.” The Roar’s low-key performance was in contrast to second-placed Central Coast Mariners, who moved to within three points of the summit with a stunning 4-0 win at Adelaide United. The 2008 AFC Champions League finalists suffered their worst home defeat, being just the second time they have conceded more than two goals in 79 home matches.
Big game: The biggest crowd in Newcastle for four years turned out to see local heroes, the Jets, entertain A-League aristocrats Melbourne Victory. After the visitors opened the scoring, Harry Kewell and Co proved no match for Newcastle, who triumphed 3-1 with help from a Ryan Griffiths double.
Headline-grabber: Australia’s Olympic team might be struggling to find the net – last weekend the Olyroos played out a third consecutive goalless draw as they seek passage to London 2012 – however, four members of the team scored at the weekend, including Mate Dugandzic, who bagged Melbourne Heart’s winner against Wellington Phoenix.
Jeonbuk Motors have claimed their second Korea Republic title in three years after seeing off Ulsan Horangi in the title decider to gain a measure of solace for defeat in last month’s AFC Champions League final. Ulsan, who finished the league season 17 points behind their rivals, gave their highly regarded opponents a fright after scoring first to level the tie at 2-2, before Jeonbuk stepped up a gear. Eninho and Luiz Henrique hit the back of the net to seal a 4-2 aggregate win to the relief of the home fans, who had already seen Qatar’s Al Sadd steal one trophy from under their noses just a matter of weeks ago.
In Oceania, New Zealand’s Waitakere United and Tahiti’s Tefana took the honours in an abbreviated OFC O-League round three, with Auckland City’s match postponed due to their FIFA Club World Cup commitments, while Hekari United will host Koloale next weekend. Waitakere now have a stranglehold on their group with three wins from three after defying New Caledonia’s AS Mont-Dore with ten men for the final half-hour, as well as the oppressive heat in Noumea. The other group match saw Tahiti’s AS Tefana leapfrog into second over an ill-disciplined Ba of Fiji, who were reduced to eight men in suffering a 4-1 defeat.
In United Arab Emirates, Ricardo Oliveira struck a brace as defending champions Al Jazira pulled off a 4-1 home victory over Emirates to cement their place at the top of the standings. Hot on their heels are Al Ain, who continued their re-emergence by moving second after twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 at Bani Yas.
Finally to Qatar, where Al Sadd continue to struggle ahead of their FIFA Club World Cup campaign, with the AFC Champions League winners suffering their second consecutive defeat by losing 2-1 at Al Rayyan. Afonso Alves was on target in each half to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, leaving Majid Mohammed's late goal nothing more than a consolation. The loss saw Al Sadd slip to fifth, trailing five points behind leaders Lekhwiya, who recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over Al Arabi at home.