Shimizu S-Pulse hosted Vegalta Sendai over the weekend in a crucial match that could determine who we see in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE next season. With both sides in the relegation fight, a win would go a long way to pushing a team closer to safety and a spot in next year’s top flight, and that’s exactly what S-Pulse got out of the match.

Thiago Santana has been at the heart of the S-Pulse attack all season, doing his best to pace a team that can struggle to score at times, so it was fitting that he notched in the opener in this important contest. The striker ghosted his way to the back post on a corner kick and when a header put the ball there, he was perfectly positioned to redirect goalward for the opening tally.

Exceptional work rate then doubled the S-Pulse lead as Noriaki Fujimoto doggedly chased down Jakub Słowik. The Vegalta goalkeeper was slow to get the ball out from his feet and Fujimoto came in at a full sprint, eventually sliding to tackle the ball away from Słowik and into the goal for an all-effort goal.

Vegalta were not going to concede victory and did everything in their power to fight back. Felippe Cardoso scored on a nice shot from the edge of the box and they flew forward until the very end trying to find an equalizer, but it was not to be. S-Pulse were able to hold on at home for a 2-1 win and valuable three points.

S-Pulse now have 29 points, putting them six clear of the relegation zone. Vegalta are on 22 points and need to close a five-point gap to get out of the bottom four for a spot in next season’s top flight.