JAPAN OSSIE Ardiles has steered his Japanese club, Shimizu S-Pulse, into the semi-finals of the J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup. Ardiles, a World Cup-winning midfielder with Argentina in 1978 before moving to Tottenham Hotspur, is in his first season in Japan after losing his club coaching job in Mexico earlier this year. Although S-Pulse are struggling in the J.League, they have made their mark in the mid-season League Cup by finishing top of Group B, ahead of glamour club Verdy Kawasaki. These two will be joined in the semi-finals on September 4 by Group A leaders Bellmare Hiratsuka and either Sanfrecce Hiroshima or Kashiwa Reysol. Bellmare and Sanfrecce both have 13 points from their seven two-leg matches but Bellmare have a much better goal difference: plus eight compared to Sanfrecce's plus two. Kashiwa have 12 points with one match to play - against bottom club Kyoto Purple Sanga - so are favoured to overtake Sanfrecce and claim the fourth spot in the semi-finals. The 16 J.League clubs were split into two groups of eight for the League Cup and teams played each other on a home and away basis, with the aggregate winners collecting three points. Unlike in the J.League, draws were allowed, with both teams collecting a point each if the aggregate scores were level. In Group B, S-Pulse picked up 16 points from seven rounds, two more than Verdy. Yokohama Flugels, J.League leaders at the halfway stage, were third on 12 points, despite scoring the most goals (27) in the 14 ties. Argentine midfielder Oliva, who was signed by Ardiles from Cordoba, scored six of S-Pulse's 22 goals and Hideki Nagai and Kenta Hasegawa got five each. The J.League resumed on Wednesday after a three-month break for the Olympic Games and League Cup preliminary rounds, with the highlight this weekend being the clash between Verdy Kawasaki and Yokohama Flugels in Sapporo. The full schedule for Saturday is: Jef United v Cerezo, Ichihara; Reds v Sanfrecce, Komaba; Verdy v Flugels, Sapporo; Marinos v Bellmare, Mitsuzawa; Jubilo v Purple Sanga, Iwata; Grampus Eight v S-Pulse, Mizuho A; Gamba v Antlers, Expo '70; Avispa v Reysol, Hakata. SINGAPORE THE second stage of the inaugural S.League could be decided on September 17, when first meets second. When the second stage (Pioneer Series) went into a two-week break for the Tiger Cup, Singapore Armed Forces FC led the eight-team table with 23 points from nine matches. Tiong Bahru United were second with 19 points and then there was a three-point gap to Balestier Central in third place. Victory for the Armed Forces on September 17, therefore, would move them seven points clear of Tiong Bahru with only four matches remaining in the second stage. The Pioneer Series champions will meet the first stage winners, Geylang United, in the championship play-off. Off the field, Woodlands Wellington coach Steve Wicks, the former QPR centre-half, and goalkeeper Sandro Radun had to be separated by club officials in the dressing room after Wicks had allegedly described his Croat 'keeper as a 'fraud'. 'It sounded like World War Three had started,' one player said. CHINA DALIAN, who won the inaugural Chinese Marlboro League in 1994, are on course to claim a second title in the professional era as they have opened up a six-point gap. Dalian, from the football hotbed of Liaoning in North East China, have 29 points, six ahead of second-placed Taiyangshen and seven clear of last year's champions, Shanghai. Army are fourth on 20. HONG KONG MONGKOK Stadium will stage the season's traditional curtain-raiser, the Aw Hoe Cup, on Sunday between league champions Instant-Dict and a Hong Kong League XI.