Round three of the revised two-stage season started with a top-of-the-table clash and Matsumoto Yamaga continuing to make history by recording their first-ever J1 win.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-0 Urawa Reds
In an early top-of-the-table clash, Hiroshima hosted last year’s runners-up Urawa Reds in a scoreless draw.
With few chances for either side in the first half, Sanfrecce came closest through Yusuke Chajima and Hisato Sato, both of whom went narrowly wide of the post with their shots as the home side tried threatening with regular counter attacks. Ryota Moriwaki came closest for Urawa in the first half with a long-range drive that forced a diving save by Takuto Hayashi to keep the ball out of the net.
The two sides shared the spoils, despite an early attempt by coach Mihailo Petrovic to change Urawa’s fortunes by making all three available substitutions within the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Matsumoto Yamaga have the makings of a fairy tale first season in the top flight after securing a 1-0 win over first division veterans Shimizu S-Pulse.
Masaki Iida gave his side the lead in front of a large away contingent in the 19th minute, pouncing on the rebound from Tomoki Ikemoto’s attempted volley from Yuzo Iwakami’s chip over the Shimizu defence.
The Nagano club had a chance to double their score later in the half, when Kohei Kiyama was brought down by Canadian defender Dejan Jakovic for a penalty, but Brazilian forward Obina was unable to convert the chance, sending his shot over the crossbar.
With all the pressure on the home side to attack in the second half, Matsumoto Yamaga did everything they could to absorb the blows and successfully claim the three points.
Ventforet Kofu 0-2 Gamba Osaka
(62′ Abe, 64′ Usami)
Struggling holders Gamba finally found their first win of the campaign through a flurry of second-half action.
Things didn’t start well for the visitors, with veteran midfielder Tomokazu Myojin needing to come off the pitch after just 11 minutes. Gamba’s struggles continued as they ended the half with just two shots thanks to Ventforet’s notoriously stiff defending.
The situation looked better for Gamba’s usually-proficient attack in the second half, and the deadlock was finally broken when Hiroyuki Abe slammed the ball into the top corner of the net.
National team call-up Takashi Usami made no doubt of the result two minutes later with his right-footed rocket from outside the penalty area just two minutes later, and Patric regretted narrowly missing a goal of his own in the 67th minute after his effort veered just wide.
Albirex Niigata 3-2 Kashiwa Reysol
(55′(pen) Leo Silva, 59′ Yamamoto, 69′ Rafael Silva / 50′ Cristiano, 71′ Wako)
A game with five second half goals saw Albirex Niigata pick up maximum points against AFC Champions League contenders Kashiwa Reysol.
After a scoreless first 45 minutes, Reysol were the ones to open the scoring five minutes into the second half through Cristiano. The Brazilian striker found himself in the middle of the penalty area to tap home a centred pass after a mazing run by Kosuke Taketomi.
An equaliser came five minutes later through Leo Silva, who converted from the spot after man of the match Rafael Silva was brought down in the crowded penalty area.
Kosuke Yamamoto put the home side in the lead moments later, receiving a defence-splitting pass from Rafael Silva to meet his run and shooting without breaking stride.
Albirex hero Silva secured the lead in the 69th minute, using his strength to keep defenders away from Kei Koizumi’s pass before hitting the middle of the net.
Naoki Wako managed to score one more for Reysol within two minutes of the restart as the away side quickly poured numbers forward, but a red card to Akimi Barada with ten minutes remaining prevented the 2011 champions from salvaging any points.
Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 Sagan Tosu
The intimate atmosphere of Mitsuzawa Stadium did not completely relieve Marinos of their attacking woes, but the hosts found just enough needed to overcome an unimpressive Sagan side though Shingo Hyodo’s effort.
Marinos had the lion’s share of possession in the first half but failed to do much with it as they were repeatedly stymied by the Sagan back line.
The visitors found their footing in the second half as rain began to fall, but were kept off the board thanks to several fine saves by Tetsuya Enomoto.
The lone goal of the match came in the 81st minute when Marinos defender Takumi Shimohira’s shot from outside the box was blocked by a Sagan defender, with Hyodo pouncing on the rebound from close range, giving Marinos coach Erick Mombaerts his first league win.
Shonan Bellmare 0-0 Vegalta Sendai
Second division champions Shonan Bellmare held their weight against relegation survivors Vegalta Sendai at the Shonan BMW Stadium as both sides shared points in a scoreless draw.
Vegalta maintained their undefeated start to the season, though it wasn’t without the occasional hiccup, as Shonan managed ten attempts at goal to the away side’s nine.
Despite all the running and hard work that saw Shonan lift the J2 title last year with several rounds to spare, stingy defences at either end did just enough for both teams to take away a point from the encounter.
Nagoya Grampus 1-1 Kashima Antlers
(69′ Yano / 32′ Kanazaki)
Two struggling sides left honours-even after goals on either side of half time at Mizuho Stadium.
Kashima Antlers struck first in the 32nd minute, finally breaking down Grampus’ stiff defending when Mu Kanazaki headed in Daigo Nishi’s cross.
The goal forced the hosts to press forward for a response, but though the new-found space gave Antlers plenty of chances they were unable to find a second.
They would rue their profligacy in the 69th minute when an untroubled Kisho Yano headed in the equalizer off a corner kick, leaving both teams still looking for their first win.
Vissel Kobe 0-2 FC Tokyo
(33′ Morishige, 68′ Muto)
Tokyo’s four Samurai Blue call-ups held a master class at Noevir Stadium for their side’s first league win of the season. The opening goal came in the 33rd minute when Kosuke Ota’s corner kick was deftly headed in by center back Masato Morishige, who was virtually unmarked.
Controversy erupted seven minutes later when former Tokyo striker Kazuma Watanabe drew a penalty kick from referee Toshimitsu Yoshida after what could only be described as a dive in the penalty area. His efforts were for naught, however, as Shuichi Gonda read Pedro Junior’s attempt from the spot perfectly and parried it away.
Striker Yoshinori Muto made it 2-0 late in the game as he maneuvered his way around several defenders before slotting the ball into the far post, capping off a resounding win for Massimo Ficcadenti’s men.
Montedio Yamagata vs Kawasaki Frontale
Kim Byeom-yong was the hero of the day as promotees Montedio Yamagata earned their first three points of the season over Kawasaki Frontale.
Frontale midfielder Kengo Nakamura and striker Yoshito Okubo kept Montedio goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi busy on a windy night at NDSoft Stadium.
In the 36th minute it was Diego who nearly put the hosts in the lead with a narrowly-angled grounder that went just wide of the post.
Frontale suffered a potentially serious blow when striker Yu Kobayashi, recently given a national team call-up, was stretchered off with a hamstring injury at the hour mark.
The game’s lone goal came from midfielder Kim, who found himself with plenty of space to receive teammate Shota Kawanishi’s trap and square his shot away.
(Recaps written by Ryan Steele and Dan Orlowitz)