Soccer / J. League

Struggling Ardija replace manager Akira Ito with Masatada Ishii

Kyodo

Relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija have sacked manager Akira Ito and turned to former Kashima Antlers boss Masatada Ishii to help them escape the drop, the J. League first division club said Sunday.

Ishii, who led Kashima to a record eighth league title last season, is faced with the onerous task of keeping second-from-bottom Omiya in the top flight with just three matches of the season remaining. The Squirrels are currently four points adrift of Ventforet Kofu, who are 15th in the table, one place above the relegation zone.

Ishii, 50, led Kashima to a league and Emperor’s Cup double last season and also came within a whisker of beating 12-time European champion Real Madrid in the final of the Club World Cup. He also won the League Cup in 2015 after taking over in July that year.

Ishii was let go by Antlers in May after they failed to advance to the Asian Champions League quarterfinals.

Ito, who was promoted to manager from a coaching position at the end of May after Hiroki Shibuya was sacked, apologized for Omiya’s current predicament.

“It’s just over five months since I was appointed as manager and I feel really bad leaving with the club still in the drop zone with three games left,” the 45-year-old said in a club statement.