The one-week absence of MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE matches finally came to an end. With the international break in the rearview mirror, teams got back at it and there were big moments at the top. While Kawasaki Frontale kept chugging along, Nagoya Grampus dropped their first points of the season and Cerezo Osaka won a big top-four battle.
Cerezo Osaka 1, Sagan Tosu 0
Sagan Tosu entered the weekend still without having conceded a goal all season. Their defense was simply too good and Park Il-Gyu too stout for anyone to score on them. If anyone was going to finally find the back of the net, it would take something extraordinary. Enter: Hiroaki Okuno. The Cerezo midfielder picked the ball up, took a touch and hit an absolutely unstoppable rocket from 25 yards that pierced through the air and found the very top corner of the net. It was an incredible shot and proved that the only way to beat the Sagan defense is with something otherworldly. But Cerezo got just that, and their defense held up, to deal Sagan their first defeat of the season and move into third place.
Kawasaki Frontale 2, Oita Trinita 0
Frontale took control of this match from the opening whistle and never let go. They were creating chances within minutes, but it took until the 36th before they finally broke through. Kaoru Mitoma jumped on a loose ball in the box and banged it in for the opening tally. The Frontale high press, which terrorized Trinita all match, delivered the second goal. Trinita couldn’t get the ball out of their own third before Mitoma created a turnover, picked up the ball and finished all on his own for a second tally that clinched the win for the champions.
Nagoya Grampus 0, F.C.Tokyo 0
The Nagoya defense was as stout as ever, but they failed to find the single goal that they so often do. They didn’t even come especially close, as F.C.Tokyo’s defense was every bit as good as their counterparts in a match that was full of promising breaks turned away by excellent back line play and committed midfielders tracking back. It looked like F.C.Tokyo had scored in the second half, giving them a surprise goal, but VAR rightly ruled it out. In the end, the two teams settled on a fair draw and Nagoya had dropped points for the first time all season.
Avispa Fukuoka 1, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 2
Daizen Maeda and Leandro Damião have stood atop the league’s goal-scoring list for most of the season, but they have to share that spot with Anderson Lopes now, who notched his sixth of the campaign on Saturday. The Consa man got things going in Fukuoka with a brilliant header that looped over the goalkeeper and under the bar for the opening goal. That goal wouldn’t hold up as Tatsuki Nara brought Avispa level with a good header on a corner kick, but Akito Fukumori won the match in the 54th minute when he found some time at the end of the box and hit a blistering low shot that just squeaked inside the post. The win moves Sapporo a bit clear of the relegation zone, while Avispa continues to sit right in the middle of the table.
Yokohama F·Marinos 1, Shonan Bellmare 1
Since losing their opening match of the campaign, Marinos are undefeated. And while they continued that streak on Saturday, they will surely feel as if they could have done better. Tomoki Iwata, Ado Onaiwu and Thiago Martins all hit the woodwork as Marinos battled Shonan from the start and, unbelievably, could not take the lead. Élber finally broke through for Marinos when he hit a gorgeous curling shot off the volley and it looked like the only question was how many goals they would win by. After all, they followed the goal with more pressure and only some fine goalkeeping by Kosei Tani kept it a one-goal game. But Marinos could not score a second and in the 75th minute, Naoki Yamada got free in front of goal and headed home to earn Shonan a draw that shocked Marinos.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0, Gamba Osaka 0
Positive COVID tests in the Gamba team after Matchweek 1 had left them on the sidelines ever since. So when they returned over the weekend for their first match in more than a month, they knew it would be an uphill battle and a trip to Hiroshima was going to be tough. If they could manage any result, it would be a strong showing, and they did just that. Gamba didn’t generate many scoring opportunities and Sanfrecce had control of the contest, but Gamba worked hard to block shots and take away angles, then when the home side did get shots away, Masaaki Higashiguchi played brilliantly to stop them. Sanfrecce will be disappointed to have only managed a point, but Gamba have to be pleased with their effort and ability to get a result in their return to competition.
Vegalta Sendai 0, Vissel Kobe 2
Vissel’s strong start to the season continued over the weekend, and it came courtesy of Kyogo Furuhasi and Ryuho Kikuchi. The duo have played very well all season so it was no surprise to see them keep up their excellent play and power Vissel to victory. Furuhashi started things in the 15th minute when he ran in behind the defense, took a long pass down with a beautiful first touch and perfectly slotted the ball just inside the post with his second touch for a delicious opening goal. Six minutes later, Kikuchi headed home on a corner kick and Vissel were on their way to victory. Vegalta, meanwhile, have not notched a point since their season-opening draw and will look to change things up as they gear up for a potential relegation fight.
Yokohama FC 1, Kashiwa Reysol 1
Yokohama FC came into the weekend without having taken a point all season, but they’re finally on the board. They were first to score, finding the back of the net in the 38th minute when Katsuya Iwatake got on the end of a corner kick and headed it back across goal for Masakazu Tashiro to tap in. For a while, it appeared as if that goal would hold up. Yuta Minami was playing splendidly in goal and Yokohama were on the verge of taking all three points, but Reysol finally broke through just before the final whistle. A mad scramble to a loose ball in the box saw Takuma Ominami get there first and bang the ball towards goal, where it was cleared off the line, but the referee correctly ruled the ball to have barely crossed the line before being cleared and awarded Reysol a precious last-minute equalizer. Yokohama were so close to picking up their first win of the season, but at least they did pick up their first point.
Urawa Reds 2, Kashima Antlers 1
The match started quickly, with chances for both sides in the early going, but it was Urawa Reds who found the back of the net first. Takahiro Akimoto latched on to a long ball and beat the keeper 1v1 to give the home side an early advantage. That lead would last until first-half stoppage time, when Ikuma Sekigawa brought the match level. The deciding moment came just after the hour mark when Keigo Tsunemoto took down Akimoto right at the edge of the box. The referee deemed Akimoto to be just inside the area, awarding a penalty that Tomoaki Makino converted to deliver all three points to Urawa.
Shimizu S-Pulse 0, Tokushima Vortis 3
Vortis lost three in a row going into the international break, so they were probably pleased to have a chance to regroup. And they sure looked like a different team coming out of the break with a trip to Shimizu. Taisei Miyashiro scored first to give the visitors a lead within a half hour, then Ken Iwao doubled the lead from the penalty spot early in the second half. Finally, Yuki Kakita put the match to bed in stoppage time as Vortis captured a dominating victory that vaulted them into the top half of the table, while S-Pulse are still in search of their first home win this season.