Hiroshima wins J-League after Sendai falters

Sanfrecce Hiroshima defeated Cerezo Osaka 4-1 on Saturday to win

its first J-League championship while putting an end to Vegalta

Sendai’s title hopes.

With one match left in the 2012 season, Sanfrecce has 61 points

after the win and an insurmountable four-point lead over

Vegalta.

Yojiro Takahagi, Toshihiro Aoyama and Hisato Sato scored

first-half goals to send Hiroshima on its way to the one-sided win.

Hironori Ishikawa added another after the break to widen the

lead.

”I’ve been telling my players all week to just give everything

they have for this game,” Hiroshima’s first-year manager, Hajime

Moriyasu, said. ”We were able to win because we never backed down

from a challenge and stayed positive.”

Sanfrecce had all but wrapped up the three points by the break,

starting with Takahagi’s left-footed strike in the 17th minute, the

same point at which Kim Jin-su had given Albirex the lead over

Vegalta.

Aoyama doubled Sanfrecce’s lead three minutes later on a header

and the momentum swung in Hiroshima’s favor in the 40th minute when

Cerezo went down a man after Hotaru Yamaguchi brought down Kohei

Shimizu.

Sato converted from the penalty spot to net his league-leading

22nd goal and put the result beyond doubt. After the break,

Ishikawa scored his first goal to make it 4-0 before Cerezo finally

got a consolation goal in the 61st minute when Takuma Edamura

nodded in from close range.

Sendai, a team that brought inspiration to a region still coping

with the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake and

tsunami, needed a win against relegation-threatened Albirex Niigata

to stay alive, but were beaten 1-0 at home before a capacity crowd

at Yurtec Stadium.

Sendai controlled the flow of play early with Shingo Akamine

hitting the post four minutes in. But South Korean defender Kim

scored in the 17th minute to give Niigata the lead.

Sendai, which finished fourth last season, had numerous chances

to score against Niigata but couldn’t find an equalizer.

”They scored early so we just tried to stay calm,” Akamine

said. ”We had so many chances so it’s disappointing not to take

advantage. Our supporters really gave us a boost all season and

it’s too bad we couldn’t come through for them.”