Kawasaki Frontale looked unbeatable and, to be fair, they are still unbeaten. But they are no longer perfect, because Vissel Kobe snatched a point from them in a major statement from the Kansai side. That means the number of perfect teams left in this MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season is down to one - Nagoya Grampus.
Let’s take a swing around Matchweek 5 and see that, and more.
Vissel Kobe 1, Kawasaki Frontale 1
Frontale were quick to start this match and could have taken a first half lead, but a couple open headers missed the mark and kept Vissel in the contest. Leandro Damião started the second half by finally putting a header on frame and scoring, but VAR ruled the goal out for offside earlier in the move and, once again, Vissel were still hanging around. The Brazilian striker would not be denied, though, in the 72nd minute. After Vissel goalkeeper Daiya Maekawa’s long ball forward was headed back toward midfield, Damião took a terrific first touch, turned, and fired for a spectacular goal just inside the opposition half that caught the goalkeeper out. After all their good chances went missing, Frontale finally had a lead from out of nowhere. But Vissel knew they just had to defend well enough to limit Frontale’s chances, which they had done, and then take advantage of just one chance, and in stoppage time they did that. Ryo Hatsuse’s pace got him to the end line, where he crossed for Ryuho Kikuchi, whose header found the bottom corner of the net to lift the home crowd out of their seats. With that, Vissel had taken a point from the defending champions and made a statement of their own - they are emerging as contenders.
Nagoya Grampus 3, Yokohama FC 0
Nagoya entered this match as big favorites against points-less Yokohama and the match went largely as expected. The home side were on the front foot from the jump, nearly scoring after the quarter-hour mark and just before halftime, with a penalty shout in the middle. But their dominance paid off after the break as Yutaka Yoshida raced downfield before hitting a perfect pass for a sliding Naoki Maeda to tap in at the back post. Mateus doubled the Grampus lead minutes later when he got to a rebound and blasted it into the top of the netting before Ryogo Yamasaki nodded him the final goal from a few inches out after a beautiful floated cross from Yuki Soma made it easy on him. And with that, Nagoya were still perfect on the season, while Yokohama FC will continue their search for their first points of the campaign.
F.C.Tokyo 3, Shonan Bellmare 2
Shonan Bellmare got off to a quick start in Tokyo, with Yuki Ohashi’s phenomenal dribbling unraveling the defense and leaving Naoki Yamada with the finish for an early goal. F.C.Tokyo responded with goals from Kyosuke Tagawa and Diego Oliveira to take the lead, but Shonan did not fold and in the 79th minute, they got even. A gorgeous backheel from Ryo Takahashi started the move then three passes later the ball was right back on Takahashi’s foot in front of goal for the finish of a beautiful team goal. But, just like Shonan fought back from losing their lead, so did F.C.Tokyo. Whereas Shonan did it with elegance, Tokyo went scrappy, dumping the ball into the box then fighting for the header, then the second ball, where Tsuyoshi Watanabe scored to deliver the winning goal.
Sagan Tosu 2, Kashiwa Reysol 0
Sagan Tosu’s fantastic start to the season has been on the back of their outstanding defense, and that defense held up again with Reysol visiting. They absolutely shut down the Reysol attack and then turned things over to Daichi Hayashi. The striker got things going in the 29th minute when he raced in behind the defense to latch onto a long ball and beat the keeper 1v1 for the opening goal. The clinical Hayashi then made it a brace in the second half, which was more than enough for a sensational defense that still has not conceded a goal this season en route to third place in the table.
Yokohama F·Marinos 1, Tokushima Vortis 0
Marinos have been getting better and better as the season has gone on, turning their season opener loss into a second match draw, then rolling off win after win since. That continued on Wednesday, as did Daizen Maeda’s red-hot scoring streak. The striker took the ball off Shota Fukuoka’s foot at the center circle in the 10th minute then raced towards goal, finishing calmly for his league-leading sixth goal of the season and giving Marinos the lead. From there, the home side was dominant and while they probably will feel that they should have scored more, they were never under threat as they picked up yet another win.
Cerezo Osaka 1, Oita Trinita 0
Cerezo Osaka delivered their third straight win, but it did not come easily. While they had the balance of play in the first half, Trinita carried it in the second half and nearly went ahead on multiple occasions, including in the 80th minute when Seigo Kobayashi rattled the crossbar. But Cerezo weathered the Trinita storm and in the 87th minute, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto hit a screamer that hit the inside of the post and found the back of the net for a terrific goal to extend their winning streak.
Avispa Fukuoka 1, Kashima Antlers 0
The contest at Level-5 Stadium turned in the 36th minute when Ikuma Sekigawa was shown a red card for a tackle that the referee judged to have been reckless. From that point on, Fukuoka dominated and nearly went ahead on several occasions. Kashima Antlers hung on valiantly down a man, but they finally broke five minutes from the final whistle when Yuya Yamagishi’s gorgeous chested ball set up Takeshi Kanamori for a clinical finish that won Fukuoka all three points.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 0
Sanfrecce welcomed S-Pulse to Edion Stadium Hiroshima as an undefeated team, and they sent S-Pulse home as a still-undefeated team. The purple-clad boys were aggressive from the opening whistle and played most of the first half in the S-Pulse third, but they just couldn’t find a goal to match their excellent play. The second half was more of the same so when Hayato Araki finished a mad scramble in the box by knocking the ball home in the 59th minute, it was justice. Sanfrecce had the goal they deserved and while the rest of the match mirrored the first - dominant play without a goal - Araki’s goal was all they needed for victory.
Urawa Reds 0, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0
This match may have ended scoreless, but it was hardly boring. Consadole was especially outstanding, demanding several excellent saves from Shusaku Nishikawa, while Takuro Kaneko also hit the post. Urawa Reds were not without a few chances of their own, but like his opposite number, Kojiro Nakano made some great saves of his own to ensure this match would end in a stalemate.