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Vissel Kobe manager Ryoichi Kawakatsu, the longest-serving manager in the J. League’s top flight, has resigned after more than three years in charge of the struggling first division outfit.

The 44-year-old former Verdy Kawasaki boss, who took over from Englishman Stuart Baxter in January 1999, said he made the decision to step down after Kobe was thrashed 4-1 away at Nagoya Grampus Eight on Wednesday. A permanent replacement has yet to be decided.

“It’s only natural for me to resign (given recent results). I couldn’t fulfill the club’s expectations and can only offer my apologies,” Kawakatsu said.

Assistant coach Hiroshi Matsuda will take over managerial duties for Saturday’s trip to Kashima Antlers.

Kobe is currently languishing in 14th place in the 16-team division with seven points, having won just two and drawn one of 10 first-stage outings this season.

S-Pulse fan banned

A Shimizu S-Pulse supporter who threw a can of beer at a Jubilo Iwata player during Wednesday’s game, has been banned from attending any official J. League games for 10 weeks starting this Saturday, J. League Division One club Shimizu announced Thursday.

The male supporter, whose name was not unveiled, threw the drink-contained beer can from the stands into the field, which hit a leg of Iwata midfielder Hiroshi Nanami, who was not seriously injured.

Sapporo acquires Sato

SAPPORO (Kyodo) Struggling Consadole Sapporo have acquired defender Jin Sato, 27, from J. League first division rivals Kyoto Purple Sanga on a full transfer, Sapporo officials said Thursday.

The Hokkaido club, currently rooted to the foot of the first-stage standings with three points having won just once in 10 league games this season, also signed striker Kazushi Isoyama from second-division Omiya Ardija on a loan deal through Jan. 31, 2003.

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