There was not a big shakeup at the top of the table as both of the league’s top teams held their places, but both were handed big jolts. One was dealt their first loss of the campaign, while the other dropped points for just the second time as the rest of the league made a statement.
Nagoya Grampus 1, Sagan Tosu 2
The battle between the two best defenses in the league was not, in fact, a defensive battle. Both attacks created chances throughout, but it was Sagan who pulled the shocker to win at Toyota Stadium. Daichi Hayashi headed home a cross within six minutes then Noriyoshi Sakai just before halftime to give Sagan a 2-0 lead. The two goals Nagoya conceded were double what they had conceded all season to that point. Trailing, the home side pressed on late and Sho Inagaki did get them within one just before the final whistle, but it wasn’t enough as Sagan continued their excellent start to deal Nagoya their first loss of the campaign and take third place.
Kawasaki Frontale 1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1
The champions have been spectacular in the early going of the season, dropping points on only one occasion thanks to the league’s best attack. And they showed flashes of that brilliance when Akihiro Ienaga finished a gorgeous team goal to put Frontale in front, but that was all they could muster. Sanfrecce defended brilliantly, forcing Frontale to shoot from distance often and making some terrific blocks when the champions did get in closer. Then Júnior Santos made a long, terrific run that undid the Frontale defense and while his shot hit the post, Tsukasa Morishima was there to knock in the rebound and take an excellent away draw from the top team in the league.
Cerezo Osaka 1, Urawa Reds 0
Both Cerezo and Urawa had stretches of good play and chances, but only one player broke through. Yusuke Maruhashi got to a second ball from a corner kick and turned a shot towards goal that somehow made it through several players and the goalkeeper before getting just inside the post. It was a seeing eye shot and won Cerezo the three points that secured their fourth place spot.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 1, Yokohama F·Marinos 3
The league’s leading scorer Anderson Lopes found the back of the net yet again and Consadole looked like they may pick up a crucial victory when they carried that lead into the final 10 minutes, but that’s when Marinos went on a rampage. Ado Onaiwu scored on a phenomenal Jun Amano move and pass, then Daizen Maeda gave Marinos the lead two minutes later. Finally, Élber scored in stoppage time to wrap Marinos’ 10th straight match without a loss.
Tokushima Vortis 0, Kashima Antlers 1
A single corner kick turned this game as Koki Machida lept high above the Vortis defense and hit a powerful header that got over the line. It wasn’t a fluke or outlier for Kashima Antlers, though. While that was the only time Antlers broke through, they were the better side throughout. Antlers allowed Vortis to keep much of the possession, but limited their chances then broke on the counter for the majority of the shots in the match.
Yokohama FC 2, Vegalta Sendai 2
The bottom two teams in the table were hoping to come away with three points and hopefully make some headway towards safety, but instead they played to a draw that is unlikely to please either side. Yutaro Hakamata and Kosuke Saito put Yokohama 2-0 up, but Tokuma Nishimura pulled Vegalta closer in the 82nd minute, then Kyohei Yoshino buried an equalizer in stoppage time for a draw that keeps both teams in the bottom two spots.
Avispa Fukuoka 1, FC Tokyo 0
The newly-promoted Fukuoka’s season continued as they picked up another clinical three points. Masaaki Murakami played well in goal, turning away FC Tokyo’s few good chances, but the Fukuoka defense did a good job limiting them, then Bruno Mendes delivered the match’s lone goal when he got free in front of goal for a tap in. That’s all it took as Fukuoka settled into 11th place, seven points clear of the drop zone.
Oita Trinita 0, Kashiwa Reysol 1
This match was decided in the 52nd minute when Keisuke Saka slid to try to block a shot, but the ball hit his arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Yuta Kamiya’s penalty kick was saved, but Ataru Esaka won the race to the rebound and tapped it into the open net as Reysol won their second straight match to jump out to 15th place.
Gamba Osaka 0, Shimizu S-Pulse 0
Gamba broke their run of scoreless draws in midweek action with a win, but they were back to 0-0 on the weekend. Both they and S-Pulse got through each other’s midfields often, and even got a lot of shots away, but they were rarely from dangerous spots as the defenses played excellent to secure a point apiece.
Shonan Bellmare 0, Vissel Kobe 0
Shonan will feel hard done for having to settle for a draw after they spent much of the match on the front foot. Almost all of the best chances went to the boys in green, with crosses regularly finding their intended targets in front, but Shonan hit all of their headers just off frame and Vissel were able to sneak away back to Kobe with a point.