The Culture Day weekend in Japan saw the J-League’s 31st round played mostly on Sunday, with a final game on Monday. Important matches on both days had a heavy influence on the battles at both the top and bottom of the league table as the season approaches its climax.
Nagoya Grampus 2-2 FC Tokyo
In front of Japan national team coach Javier Aguirre, Nagoya Grampus gave their lead away twice to succumb with a 2-2 draw with FC Tokyo. Recent Japan regular and FC Tokyo captain Masato Morishige embarrassed himself with an own goal in front of both of his bosses in the 19th minute, but it was only two minutes later that FC Tokyo were able to get an equaliser, with Brazilian striker Edu getting in front of Marcus Tulio Tanaka and scoring from Kosuke Ota’s accurate cross. Tulio later rectified his mistake by rising above the pack to score a header, but was embarrassed again in the second half by young national team bolter, Yoshinori Muto, who rounded him and several other Nagoya Grampus defenders to score a goal that surely impressed Aguirre.
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Vegalta Sendai
Vegalta Sendai traveled to Osaka and prevented Gamba Osaka from closing the gap with Urawa Red Diamonds in the race for the J-League title. After a first half that saw Vegalta with the slight upper hand, Kotaro Omori opened the scoring moments into the second half, allowing Gamba Osaka to get the upper hand. J-League veteran striker Atsushi Yanagisawa sent the away side home celebrating, however, with a last minute goal from a fast counter attack against the run of play.
Cerezo Osaka 1-3 Ventforet Kofu
Cerezo Osaka’s chances of avoiding relegation were dealt a heavy blow against fellow relegation-threatened side Ventforet Kofu, despite leading at halftime. Cacau’s goal was canceled out by a long ball towards the box that met Kohei Morita, who was able to head it over Kim Jin-Hyeon, who was caught off his line. The 71st and 73rd minutes saw goals from Hideomi Yamamoto and Kazunori Hosaka to give Ventforet Kofu some significant breathing space in the remaining three games of the season, while Cerezo lick their wounds in 17th place.
Kashiwa Reysol 2-0 Tokushima Vortis
Kashiwa Reysol hosted relegated side Tokushima Vortis and controlled the game in a 2-0 win that kept the home side in sixth place. Dudu opened the scoring for the home side, while Hidekazu Otani’s slick pass in the 41st minute split through the Tokushima defence to find Dudu, who was able to carry the ball into the box and slot it past goalkeeper Toru Hasegawa to seal the three points for Kashiwa.
Albirex Niigata 1-2 Kashima Antlers
Jamaican-born Musashi Suzuki’s late first half goal was canceled out as Kashima Antlers left Big Swan Stadium with a 2-1 win over Albirex Niigata, keeping themselves in the title race. Mitsuo Ogasawara’s long-range free kick met the feet of Atsutaka Nakamura inside the box, who calmly placed it with his first touch into the far corner of the net. Defender Daigo Nishi then received a cleared ball near the penalty area in the 86th minute, bringing the ball just inside the box to slot it past Atomu Tanaka and goalkeeper Tatsuya Morita to give Kashima Antlers a valuable three points.
Kawasaki Frontale 2-3 Shimizu S-Pulse
Shimizu S-Pulse climbed out of the relegation zone with a late 3-2 away win to title-chasers Kawasaki Frontale at Todoroki Stadium. Akito Fukumori started the goalfest with an accurate header from Kengo Nakamura’s corner kick, while Mitsunari Musaka met a cut-back from the touchline to equalise in the 40th minute. Kawasaki Frontale’s Yu Kobayashi was able to bring the home side back into the lead before halftime, playing some quick passes with his teammates to find space in the penalty area. Shimizu S-Pulse equalised again five minutes into the second half, with some neat passing finding the overlapping Yutaka Yoshida running into the box and regaining his rebounded shot from goalkeeper Rikihiro Sugiyama to score in an open goal. In the final minute of regular time, Takuya Honda was able to win the ball just inside the Shimizu S-Pulse half, launching a counter attack and allowing Hideki Ishige to find Kazuya Murata running through the defence. Murata then found the net from a tight angle to give the away side a vital away win.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-1 Omiya Ardija
Back-to-back J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima welcomed relegation battlers Omiya Ardija and gave them an ideal welcoming gift with a Tsukasa Shiotani own goal. The defender’s attempted pass back to his goalkeeper in the 11th minute was misjudged and simply rolled into the net as Takuto Hayashi attempted to scramble back and avoid any blushes. Defender Shunsuke Fukuda was brought on for midfielder Koji Hashimoto in the 70th minute by Omiya Ardija manager Hiroki Shibuya to try to absorb the pressure of Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s attack. Omiya Ardija were however sent back to the relegation zone in the 76th minute when Yoshifumi Kashiwa’s cross was met by Satoru Yamagishi’s head and went in at the near post, despite the attempts of goalkeeper Takashi Kitano to keep it out.
Sagan Tosu 2-1 Vissel Kobe
Yohei Toyoda continued his impressive form with a late brace for Sagan Tosu to carry them to a 2-1 win against Vissel Kobe. Despite some first half chances for Sagan Tosu stopped by the post and goalkeeper Kenta Tokushige’s reflexes, it wasn’t until the 76th minute that the opening goal was scored as Daisuke Ishizu found space on the counter attack for Vissel Kobe. Sagan Tosu’s attacking eventually paid off in the 87th minute as Yohei Toyoda stretched to head a short cross over Tokushige for the equaliser. Yohei Toyoda then sealed the win and his marked 15th goal of the season in the fourth minute of additional time, receiving the ball over the defence and giving himself plenty of time to adjust his positioning for the shot.
Yokohama F. Marinos 0-1 Urawa Reds
In the final game of the round on Monday evening, Urawa Reds traveled south to Yokohama and extended their lead to five points at the top of the J-League table with a 1-0 win against Yokohama F. Marinos. 19-year-old Takahiro Sekine was the star for the league leaders as he reacted quickly to run into the penalty area and pounce on the rebound before any Yokohama F. Marinos defenders could clear the danger, sending a large away crowd into raptures. Urawa’s win sets up the next round as a potential title decider, as they host second-place Gamba Osaka on November 22.