2015 J1 League – First Stage Round 1 recap

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Nagoya Grampus v Matsumoto Yamaga - J.League 2015

While last year’s champions drew from a two goal lead, a newly-promoted team nearly surprised observers. The opening round of the 2015 season saw plenty of goal action in the return of the league’s two-stage format.

Vegalta Sendai 2-0 Montedio Yamagata
(81′ 90′ Wilson)

Vegalta Sendai managed to take three points from J1 Promotion Playoff winners Montedio, despite being down to ten men for the final 30 minutes of the match.

Takuya Nozawa was given his marching orders with a second yellow card in the 63rd minute after a poorly-judged tackle on Takumi Yamada, but a substitution of Ramon Lopes for Brazilian compatriot Wilson would prove to be a stroke of genius by manager Susumu Watanabe, with the mainstay striker scoring a ten-minute brace within minutes of his introduction.

Wilson’s first goal rocked the home stands with a volley from close range from Ryang Yong-Gi’s cross inside the penalty area. Nine minutes later, Naoki Sugai stole the ball from a lackadaisical Yamada, passing it to Wilson to move past the goalkeeper and slot the ball into an open net.

Nagoya Grampus 3-3 Matsumoto Yamaga
(33′ Koyamatsu, 78′ Tulio, 80′ Novakovic / 32′ Obina, 63′ Ikemoto, 76′ Kiyama)

J-League newcomers Matsumoto Yamaga almost made the perfect start to their first-ever season in the top flight, but two goals in two minutes from Nagoya forced the sides to share points.

Brazilian striker Obina opened his account for his new club with a near-range header, beating goalkeeper Seigo Narzaki to head home from a corner kick. Nagoya returned fire instantly, when Kensuke Nagai superbly volleyed a long ball into the path of Tomoya Koyamatsu, who tapped the ball into the near corner with relative ease.

Yamaga’s second goal came from another corner kick, with Narazaki spilling the ball to allow Tomoki Ikemoto to poke the ball into the net after the hour mark, while Kohei Kiyama scored their third with an unstoppably-powerful effort inside the box.

Nagoya responded with two goals in two minutes through a header from Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Milivoje Novakovic’s powerful shot after turning with his back to the goal. Nagoya had a chance to finally go ahead after Novakovic was brought down by Keita Goto inside the area, but the large away support were sent home delighted after Tulio failed to beat Tomohiko Murayama with his penalty shot down the centre of the goal.

Gamba Osaka 2-2 FC Tokyo
(45+1′ Patric, 53′ Usami / 75′ 90+1′ Muto)

Goals on either side of half time were not enough for last year’s domestic treble winners to claim three points as FC Tokyo clawed their way back with a Yoshinori Muto brace to take a point away from Banpaku Stadium.

Keisuke Iwashita almost put the home side ahead in the 12th minute with a long-range half-volley, but fringe goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was prepared and kept the ball from crossing the line, but it wasn’t until additional time of the first half until a goal was scored, when veteran Yasuhito Endo found Patric with his precisely-driven cross to be directed with a header into the net.

Takashi Usami doubled the champions’ lead shortly after half time after he converted his penalty, before another attempt from outside the box in the 70th minute failed to really test Gonda.

The threat of Yoshinori Muto finally became too much for Gamba, as the capital club star found an inch of space to turn beyond the defensive pressure to slide the ball into the far corner in the 75th minute. The 22-year-old failed to latch onto a cross that could have doubled his tally earlier, but finally notched the equaliser in additional time with a sublime curling strike from outside the box.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 Ventforet Kofu
(10′ Sato, 87′ Douglas)

After missing out on a third consecutive league title last year, Sanfrecce Hiroshima began their season the best way possible with a dominant home win over Yamanashi-based Ventforet Kofu.

Star striker Hisato Sato started his challenge for a 12th season with a goal tally in the double digits, scoring in the tenth minute from Toshihiro Aoyama’s long pass, controlling with his chest and striking emphatically into the far corner. Aoyama came close to doubling the lead later in the first half with a shot from just outside the box that was narrowly wide of the upright.

Despit Sanfrecce’s dominance, they had to wait until near the end of the 90 minutes for a second goal, with Koji Morisaki’s corner kick finding Tokushima Vortis loanee Douglas running into space to score with a diving header after he came off the bench.

Sagan Tosu 2-1 Albirex Niigata
(27′ Toyoda, 50′ Ikeda / 13′ Rafael Silva)

Last season’s surprise team Sagan Tosu came from behind to keep three points at home in a game where any result could have been deemed fair.

Jubilo Iwata loanee Kosuke Yamamoto found Rafael Silva with a neat through pass as Albirex counter attacked in the 13th minute, which was finished by the Brazilian striker after Akihiro Hayashi failed to keep the ball out of the net with his feet.

The Brazilian almost scored again five minutes later after he wriggled past several Sagan midfielders to send flying a bullet from outside the area that crashed off the outside of the upright post.

Japanese-naturalised New Zealand international defender Michael James’s injury in the 22nd minute forced an early defensive change for Albirex. Substitute Kazunari Ono was moments later adjudged by referee Hirose Itaru to have brought down striker Yohei Toyoda in the box. The Sagan star struck the resulting penalty with aplomb into the back of the net to give the home side the equaliser.

At last, Naoyuki Fujita’s long-range free kick found space in the middle of the penalty area for Kei Ikeda to stretch out and get the ball past Tatsuya Morita for the three points.

Yokohama F. Marinos 1-3 Kawasaki Frontale
(16′ Kobayashi / 3′ Elsinho, 22′ Kobayashi, 72′ Okubo)

New manager Erick Mombaerts got off to a poor start to his J-League career, with the 59-year-old Frenchman’s Yokohama side losing to prefectural rivals Kawasaki at Nissan Stadium.

Kawasaki took the lead in the third minute, when a serious of quick passes caught Marinos off guard and allowed Yu Kobayashi to square the ball to new Brazilian midfielder Elsinho to slide in and tap in at the far post. The home side equalised with a clever long pass from veteran Yuji Nakazawa to find the run of defender Yuzo Kobayashi behind the high line of the Kawasaki defence, slotting the ball between the legs of Yohei Nishibe to score.

The second goal for Kawasaki came when they caught Yokohama in transition, winning the ball back and playing forward quickly, with Renato finding Yu Kobayashi in the box with a squared pass to put the attack-minded away side back in the lead.

Elsinho found Kobayashi with a through ball on the counter attack early in the second half, but Tetsuya Enomoto was quick to close down the member of Japan’s Asian Cup squad. Current and back-to-back J-League top scorer Yoshito Okubo capped off the win with a goal in the 72nd minute, contorting to head Kengo Nakamura’s short cross past Enomoto.

Vissel Kobe 0-1 Kashiwa Reysol
(63′ Kudo)

Kashiwa Reysol travelled to Kobe and continued their good form in the AFC Champons League with a single goal to take three points back east.

Near misses from Leandro and Kosuke Taketomi were followed by loanee Cristiano’s free kick hitting the upright, making it seem like it could be a long night for the visitors. A Kazuma Watanabe long-range volley straight towards Takanori Sugeno early in the second half was the first real threat from Vissel.

Naoki Wako received the ball again after his corner kick attempt in the 63rd minute, sending his cross to the far post for mid-week hattrick hero Masato Kudo to head across the goal and into the net after goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto completely missed his attempt to punch the ball away.

Vissel captain Jung Woo-young’s free kick in the 88th minute somehow evaded the legs inside the penalty area and went narrowly wide of the upright, leaving the home side ruing their inability to create chances on the day.

Shonan Bellmare 1-3 Urawa Reds
(36′ Endo / 41′ Koroki, 75′ Ugajin, 77′ Nasu)

After losing all three of their matches in 2015 to date, Urawa Reds traveled south of Tokyo to Hiratsuka to face newly-promoted Shonan Bellmare and earned their first win of the season.

Young defender Wataru Endo gave the home team an ideal start to their campaign with a confident penalty kick after a foul from Ryota Moriwaki, before Urawa’s Shinzo Koroki returned fire five minutes later, heading in Tomoya Ugajin’s free kick before half time.

Ugajin got himself on the scoresheeet in the second half with an accurate first-time shot from the edge of the box into the top corner, before 33-year-old defender Daisuke Nasu put the game out of doubt for last year’s J-League runners-up with a header from Yuki Abe’s cross just moments later.

Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Kashima Antlers
(40′, 90+1′ Omae, 74′ Honda / 69′ Endo)

Last year’s relegation survivors Shimizu surprised potential title favourites Kashima on the final match of the round with a 3-1 home win to see them join Urawa and Kawasaki as table toppers for the first week.

Fan-favourite Genki Omae opened the scoring five minutes before half time after beating the offside trap to strike towards the far post.

Yasushi Endo’s equaliser in the 69th minute was marred in controversy. Beating the offside trap to receive Gaku Shibasaki’s chip over the defence, his shot hit the underside of Masatoshi Kushibiki before rolling towards the goal. While referee Ryuji Sato ruled the ball had crossed the line, replays suggested that the ball may have not crossed the line before being cleared by the Shimizu defence.

Takuya Honda put the home side ahead again with 15 minutes remaining in the game, unmarked in the penalty area to poke home Kazuya Murata’s cross. Genki Omae then settled the game, scoring his brace moments into additional time with a phenomenal strike that crashed off the underside of the crossbar on the counter attack, receiving a pass to the edge of the box from Murata after having started the attack himself from inside the Shimizu half.