By Jeremy Walker
TOKYO (May 4)--Brazilian Zeca has become the first coaching
casualty of the J.League season after being fired by Kawasaki
Frontale on Thursday.
The 53-year-old manager, whose full name is Jose Luiz Ferreira
Rodrigues, was promoted from head coach after Frontale won the
second division championship last season.
But in the top flight, Frontale have won only two and drawn
one of their first 10 matches, and are only four points ahead
of bottom-placed Kyoto Purple Sanga.
The club management decided to act after Frontale's humiliating
5-1 defeat at home to Jubilo Iwata in the Golden Week holiday
program on Wednesday afternoon in front of the biggest crowd of
the season at Todoroki, 16,843.
Head coach Toshiaki Imai will take over as manager, the club
While Frontale remained in the battle to avoid a swift return
to the second division, Jubilo's win took them to the top of the
table on 20 points from nine games. The match was particularly
noteworthy as Jubilo captain Toshiya Fujita netted a rare hat-trick
of penalties, the first time this feat had been accomplished since
the J.League kicked off in 1993.
Fujita struck in first-half injury time to cancel out an early
goal from Frontale defender Shuhei Terada, and added two more
from the penalty spot in the 50th and 87th minutes.
Jubilo's other scorers were Russian striker Dmitry Radchenko,
with his first goal for the club in his 10th league appearance
dating back to last September, and from striker Nobuo Kawaguchi.
After the game, 28-year-old midfielder Fujita was very much
a reluctant hero.
With regular penalty-taker Masashi Nakayama missing with a hamstring
injury, Fujita said he stepped in to accept the responsibility
"I didn't really want to take the penalties, but when I looked
around I think everyone felt the same," said the former national
team midfielder. "The other players said I should take them, so,
as captain, I did."
Jubilo lead the way with 20 points, one ahead of Shimizu S-Pulse,
who recovered from 1-0 down to beat FC Tokyo 2-1 with two late
goals from substitute Kohei Hiramatsu.
Takuya Jinno had given FC Tokyo the lead early in the second
half and, in a thrilling finish, Hiramatsu pulled S-Pulse level
in the 87th minute and bagged the winner in the final minute.
Jubilo and S-Pulse, who won the first and second stages respectively
of the league last season, have a game in hand on the chasing
pack, as they both missed a round of games due to Asian club competition
Yokohama F Marinos are third on 18 points after losing 2-0
away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, whose goals came from wing-back Kentaro
Sawada and centre-forward Tatsuhiko Kubo.
Three teams have 17 points and are separated by goal difference.
Cerezo Osaka occupy fourth spot after losing the Osaka derby
2-1 to Gamba, despite a ninth goal of the campaign from captain
Hiroaki Morishima; FC Tokyo are fifth after that defeat at Shimizu;
and Kashiwa Reysol are sixth thanks to a 2-1 win at home to Chiba
neighbours JEF United Ichihara.
At the bottom, Kyoto have only three points from 10 games,
their latest setback being a 4-3 extra-time defeat by Avispa Fukuoka.
Frontale are 15th with seven, three points behind Vissel Kobe,
who occupy the "safe" 14th spot with 10 points, as two teams are
relegated at the season's end.