Were you waiting for the top teams to stumble? It didn’t happen this week as Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus rode strong attacks to dominant victories. Meanwhile the league’s top scorers also shined bright, with Anderson Lopes and Leandro Damião each finding the back of the net.
It was a big weekend for the best in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.
FC Tokyo 2, Kawasaki Frontale 4
The champions’ unstoppable attack looked, well, unstoppable yet again. Two early strikes from Akihiro Ienaga put Frontale in front and they never looked back. Adaílton did his best to bring Tokyo back into the match when he cut the Frontale lead in half, but Kaoru Mitoma got that goal back then Leandro Damião scored his seventh of the season to stretch the lead to 4-1. A late goal made the scoreline look better for Tokyo, but this one was all Frontale, whose 26 goals on the season are 10 more than the next best team as the front line continues to terrorize every defense they face.
Oita Trinita 0, Nagoya Grampus 3
Nagoya slumped in the last couple weeks as they struggled to score, but they did not have that issue in Oita. It got started with Ryogo Yamasaki, who jumped on a bobbled ball from the goalkeeper to knock in the opening tally. A good free kick then put the Trinita defense in an awkward position and they were unable to deal with it, turning it the wrong way for an own goal and 2-0 Nagoya lead. Finally, Yoichiro Kakitani got on the end of a drag back to finish with ease and the visitors were back to stalking Frontale at the top of the table.
Cerezo Osaka 2, Avispa Fukuoka 2
A 12th minute red card to Takaaki Shichi should have turned the match in Cerezo’s direction. The top four side up a man for nearly 80 minutes at home was a recipe for a blow out, but Fukuoka would not just give away the points. They defended bravely and, just after the hour mark, took a surprising lead when Masakazu Yoshioka picked up a loose ball and hit a beautiful curler into the side netting. The lead only lasted minutes, though, because Motohiko Nakajima, in just his second senior match, hit an absolute belter from 30 yards for a sensational goal to bring the match level. Mutsuki Kato’s 76th minute tally looked like it would end the match, but Fukuoka would not give up and, minutes from time, Juanma Delgado scored to steal an improbable point for the 10-man visitors.
Sagan Tosu 3, Yokohama FC 0
Sagan hit a bit of a speed bump in recent weeks, going three matches without a win after their perfect start to the season. But they got back to their winning ways with their attack finding its legs while the defense remained as resolute as always. Keita Yamashita led the way with a pair of goals, the first of which was a spectacular twisting volley. Fuchi Honda added a goal of his own, hitting a blistering strike from 25 yards that left the goalkeeper no chance as Sagan settled into fourth in the table.
Vissell Kobe 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 1
S-Pulse went to Kobe and showed no fear taking on the league’s third place team on the road. They were dominant from the jump and it was shocking they didn’t go ahead early on. Yuito Suzuki got in behind the defense and goalkeeper, but stumbled when trying to shoot into the open net and missed the frame. Then Thiago Santana hit a gorgeous free kick that looked set to open the scoring, but it rattled the post. It took until the 74th minute for S-Pulse to finally break through as a perfect Thiago Santana cross found a streaking Elsinho to finish for the lead. But Vissel, who were on the back foot most of the game, were woken up by falling behind and got even three minutes from time as Ryo Hatsuse crossed for Kyogo Furuhashi to tap in. Vissel have made a habit of falling behind, but they’ve also made a habit of coming back, and they did it again here for a point that keeps them third in the league.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 2, Kashima Antlers 2
It looked like Kashima Antlers would walk away winners after blitzing Consadole early on. Goals by Katsuya Nagato and Ayase Ueda put the visitors ahead within 20 minutes, but that only seemed to wake the home side up. First, Shunta Tanaka managed to win the race to a loose ball in the box and knock it in, cutting Antlers’ lead in half. Then, 20 minutes from time, Takuro Kaneko was taken down, the referee pointed to the spot and Anderson Lopes converted for his league leading eighth goal of the season to split the points in dramatic fashion.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0, Shonan Bellmare 1
Sanfrecce entered the weekend without a loss, while Shonan Bellmare had just one win all season. With Hiroshima hosting Bellmare, there was no doubt who was favored, and the match started as expected. Sanfrecce had all of the possession and most of the shots, but they couldn’t break through. That opened the door for Satoshi Tanaka in the 56th minute, who won the ball from Sanfrecce to start the Bellmare move then got on the end of it, sliding the ball over the line for a shocking goal. The visitors then locked down defensively and held on for a surprising win as Sanfrecce dropped their first match of the campaign.
Kashiwa Reysol 1, Gamba Osaka 0
It’s been a tough start to the season for Reysol, but a visit from Gamba saw them pick up their second win of the year and leap out of the relegation zone. Reysol were the better side for most of the match, but it took until the 76th minute for them to break through as a Hidekazu Otani shot somehow found its way through traffic and into the back of the net. Gamba are still yet to score in four matches this season.
Vegalta Sendai 0, Yokohama F·Marinos 0
If the goal was a yard wider, Marinos may have scored five in this match. But it’s not, so Marinos’ dominance went unrewarded as they spent much of the match shooting just wide and finished with just one shot on frame. Vegalta were not simply bystanders, as they did well to take away shooting lanes and clear the front of goal, doing what they could to hold onto a valuable point as they try to turn around a rough start to the season.
Urawa Reds 1, Tokushima Vortis 0
What started as a goalkeeper showdown turned into one moment of magic as Takahiro Sekine’s terrific header on the hour mark won the match, but it was still the backstops who stole the show. Urawa’s Shusaku Nishikawa and Vortis’ Naoto Kamifukumoto spent much of the match, but especially the first half, trading eye-popping saves as each team’s attacking menace went for not in the face of two spectacular goalkeepers. It was only Sekine’s header that managed to find its way past a backstop, and hand the Reds a win that takes them into the top half of the table.