With the sun shining in most parts of Japan and the cherry blossoms having bloomed across Japan, fans of the J-League were treated to all nine games of the round crammed into one day of action.
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-3 Kashiwa Reysol
(90+1′ Abe / 21′ Otani, 64′ Ota, 67′ Kudo)
Two goals in three minutes secured Kashiwa’s win over J-League debutants Matsumoto Yamaga.
As the large and vocal Yamaga crowd cheered their side, it was the away team that broke the deadlock shortly after 20 minutes of play, with captain Hidekazu Otani beating Hayuma Tanaka to meet the cross of Kim Chang-soo.
Tetsuro Ota doubled the lead with a deft touch to direct Masato Kudo’s pass goalward after the striker’s movement stretched the defence, while Kudo put his name on the scoresheet minutes later when he pounced on the rebound of Yusuke Kobayashi’s audacious curling effort from the edge of the box.
Brazililan striker Obina came close to closing the margin in the 80th minute, but couldn’t get on the end of the through pass before Takanori Sugeno came off his line. Yoshiro Abe attempted an audacious volley from a set play soon after that went narrowly wide.
With ten minutes remaining for Yamaga to salvage anything from the encounter, they attempted to apply pressure on Kashiwa’s defence with constant fast breaks forward. The attacks finally paid off as through an Abe diving header from Masaki Iida’s upright-hitting half-volley.
The goal proved to be nothing more than a consolation for the home side as the referee blew for full time moments later.
Nagoya Grampus 2-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
(45+2′ Kawamata, 85′ Yano)
Kengo Kawamata wowed the crowd at Toyota Stadium towards the end of the first half as Nagoya Grampus edged Sanfrecce Hiroshima by a single goal.
Kensuke Nagai’s pass from the halfway line found Kawamata with enough time for the prolific striker to deftly loft the ball over Takuto Hayashi and find the back of the net.
Former Japan national team striker Kisho Yano doubled the score for Nagoya late in the game, securing the side’s first win over Sanfrecce since the 2011 season.
Yokohama F-Marinos 1-1 Vegalta Sendai
(90+2′ Fabio / 68′ Kamata)
Vegalta Sendai fended off numerous attacks by the home side, yet still snatched a draw from the hands of victory after falling to a late goal by Yokohama F-Marinos.
Despite 14 attempts from either side leading up to the goal, it took an unexpected side-volley by Vegalta defender Jiro Kamata from Wilson’s cross to break the deadlock.
Vegalta’s stingy defence continued stifling the home side’s attacks, aided by Yokohama’s failure to find the target. Vegalta however failed to take all three points with Yokohama defender Fabio Aguiar eventually finding the target, volleying from a poor clearance to beat the gloves of Yuji Rokutan in additional time.
Shimizu S-Pulse 2-3 Gamba Osaka
(56′ Utaka, 64′ Omae / 29′ 80′ Usami, 50′ Patric)
Gamba were spared blushes after a late Takashi Usami goal sealed a highlight-friendly road win.
S-Pulse had one of the better chances early as successive efforts by Shun Nagasawa and Genki Omae were parried away by Masaaki Higashiguchi.
The first goal of the match was an acrobatic effort by Usami, who controlled a high cross with his leg whilst slipping between two S-Pulse defenders before slotting it past S-Pulse goalkeeper Masatoshi Kushibiki for his fifth of the season.
Brazilian gunner Patric looked close to doubling the lead when his rocket bounced off the crossbar shortly before half time, but he needed not wait longer than five minutes after the interval to deftly parry Koki Yonekura’s cross into the net with a low half-volley.
The 54th-minute introduction of Peter Utaka sparked an S-Pulse comeback, with the Nigerian scoring a header through his first touch. Eight minutes later, Omae capitalised on a horrendous error by Higashiguchi to draw the hosts level.
In the end it was Usami again, maneuvering his way through and around several defenders in the 80th minute before a rising shot with his right foot sealed three points for the reigning champions.
Vissel Kobe 4-1 Ventforet Kofu
(4′ 45′ Ishizu, 54′ Mihara, 73′ Ogawa / 83′ Adriano)
The difference in strength between the two ‘V Derby’ sides was clear from the outset when Daisuke Ishizu needed just four minutes to put his name on the scoreboard for Vissel.
Struggling Ventforet suffered under a high press by the hosts and were rarely able to assert themselves in the final third.
A second Ishizu goal on the verge of half time put a stamp on manager Nelsinho Baptista’s men, and his tactics were rewarded with two more goals by Masatoshi Mihara and Keijiro Ogawa, the latter of which was a well-placed strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Ventforet’s Adriano pulled one back with seven minutes remaining in regulation, but it was far too little, too late for the Yamanashi outfit who are propping up the bottom of the table.
Sagan Tosu 1-0 Montedio Yamagata
A late Yohei Toyoda goal brought Sagan Tosu up to fifth place as promotees Montedio Yamagata continued to struggle.
The visitors pressured hard in the first half, with Ryosuke Matsuoka delivering what was perhaps their best chance when his close-range effort clanged off the far post.
A longer effort by Alceu just after the hour mark kept Akihiro Hayashi on his toes; his Brazilian teammate Diego was unfortunate to have a 76th-minute goal of his own called offside.
Minutes later it was Toyoda who rose above the defender to deliver a spectacular header, giving outgunned Sagan a crucial three points.
Shonan Bellmare 0-1 FC Tokyo
A second half header by Chelsea target Yoshinori Muto kept FC Tokyo unbeaten, moving the capital city side up to a tie for first place after the short away trip to BMW Stadium.
Bellmare made progress early on with their attack up the sides, and midfielder Daisuke Kikuchi was disappointed to see his 10th-minute effort deep in the penalty area go agonisingly wide.
But it was Muto who drew the interest of observers and he did not shirk from the opportunity, attempting a header off Kosuke Ota’s 17th-minute cross before testing the hosts with a pair of chances in the 36th minute.
The 22-year-old looked as though he had found the scoresheet with a 53rd-minute header after hitting the crossbar with an initial effort, but it was adjusted offside.
Muto at last discovered the back of the net 10 minutes later with a low header that easily snuck inside the near post.
Substitute Bruno Cesar’s chance to equalise for Bellmare late was easily contained by Tokyo goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, giving Shonan their second loss of the season.
Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 Urawa Reds
(35′ Moriya / 88′ Zlatan)
Urawa managed to maintain their unbeaten start to the J-League season after going down to a first half goal from enigmatic rivals on the other side of Tokyo, Kawasaki Frontale.
Both sides made early attempts, with Urawa’s Zlatan Ljubijankic and Takahiro Sekine both shooting wide while Kawasaki seemed to lack a final ball in their speedy attacks. The Kanagawa Prefecture side finally put themselves on the front foot after the half hour mark, with Shintaro Kurumaya beating Sekine in a footrace to the Urawa penalty area, centring the ball from the touchline to find Kentaro Moriya completely unmarked, who slotted the ball home with relative ease.
As the away side looked to get themselves back into the game, Kawasaki tried to absorb the pressure and slow the game down with small fouls. Yosuke Kashiwagi had reason to feel aggrieved in the 86th minute, when he was felled from behind by Tombense loanee Elsinho whilst charging into the box, but the referee waved away any protests.
Urawa found their way back into the game shortly after, when they won a corner kick that Kashiwagi curled towards space that Zlatan charged towards to head in an equaliser. The referee ended the game with Urawa unable to find anything more than a solitary point, allowing Kawasaki to wipe the beads of sweat from their brow.
Kashima Antlers 1-1 Albirex Niigata
(46′ Doi / 41′ Rafael Silva)
Goals on either side of half time resulted in a stalemate for the struggling Kashima Antlers as they faced perennial mid-table side Albirex Niigata.
Despite being labelled by several pundits as title favorites before the season began, Kashima went behind before half time after Hitoshi Sogahata rushed out of the penalty area to clear the ball, sending his attempted clearance into defender Hwang Seok-ho. Albirex striker Rafael Silva raced to collect the ball at the touchline and rounded the back-tracking defence to find the back of the net.
Shoma Doi hit back for the home side immediately after kick off of the second half, with Yasushi Endo launching a ball from inside the defensive half to the chest of Hiroyuki Takasaki at the edge of the box, allowing Doi to rush forward to beat the Albirex defence to the ball.
(This recap was compiled by Ryan Steele and Dan Orlowitz)