The first day of Japan’s Golden Week holiday season was filled with football, featuring 34 matches across the top four levels and all 18 J1 teams involved in the festivities. J-League fans were treated to several high-scoring games across the country and a second consecutive round without a scoreless draw.
Vegalta Sendai 1-2 Kashima Antlers
(90+2′ Kanazono / 43′ Shoji, 68′ Caio)
Kashima Antlers continued their rise from their early poor form with a 2-1 victory away to a struggling Vegalta Sendai.
Gen Shoji put the AFC Champions League participants ahead before half time when he squeezed into the middle of a crowd of Vegalta players to head Gaku Shibasaki’s corner kick across the face of goal and inside the far post. Brazilian-born Samurai Blue hopeful Caio doubled the lead for Kashima in the 68th minute after making an unchallenged run into the box before shrugging off the challenge of Hiroaki Okuno and shooting past goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan.
Vegalta Sendai gave their home fans the slightest glimmer of a comeback in additional time when Hidetaka Kanazono turned inside the box to shoot a rocket past Hitoshi Sogahata, but the referee blew the whistle before Vegalta could turn the goal into more than a consolation.
Kawasaki Frontale 1-4 Kashiwa Reysol
(43′ Taniguchi / 45+1′ Taketomi, 48′ 59′ Kudo, 81′ Cristiano)
Two of arguably the most attractive footballing teams in Japan met in another high-scoring battle, with Reysol coming out on top after recovering from an early goal allowed to score four unanswered goals against Kawasaki Frontale.
Shogo Taniguchi helped the home side to what appeared would be a good end to the first half, rising inside the box to power Kengo Nakamura’s long range curling free kick through the hands of Reysol goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno and into the net. The lead didn’t last long, with Kosuke Taketomi finding an equaliser three minutes later after running at the Frontale defence and finding an inch of space to drive his low shot into the corner before half time.
Reysol would put themselves in the lead just minutes into the second half when Kim Chang-soo played Leandro into the box, with the Brazilian crossing the ball to an unmarked Masato Kudo who headed the first of his brace from close range. Kudo needed another 11 minutes for his second, with Kim sending in a pinpoint cross from 40 metres out for the star Reysol striker to head home with Frontale goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe completely misjudging the ball’s path.
The match was settled in the 81st minute when Cristiano and Kudo combined for a two-man counterattack, playing the ball between each other before the Brazilian found himself inside the box and slotted the ball neatly into the far corner.
Albirex Niigata 0-1 FC Tokyo
Captain Masato Morishige gave FC Tokyo a goal against the run of play to see the capital side take all three points from Albirex Niigata.
After a relatively terse first half between the two sides, FC Tokyo struggled to compose any attacking threats in the second half and only managed their first shot in the 87th minute, when a possibly offside Morishige latched onto Kosuke Ota’s free kick to find the back of the net.
With just four registered shots to the capital side to Albirex’s 14, Massimo Ficcadenti’s men managed to make the most of frugality to keep themselves very much in the race for the first stage title.
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-3 Montedio Yamagata
(3′ Edamura, 12′ Nagasawa, 26′ Utaka / 85′ Diego, 89′ Nakashima, 90+4′ Hayashi)
Shimizu’s three goals in the first half hour seemed like it would be enough after a number of changes to their starting lineup, before a dramatic comeback by struggling promotees Montedio Yamagata in the last ten minutes of the match forced the two sides to share points.
Just four shots from Shimizu in the opening 45 minutes resulted in three goals, with Takuma Edamura scoring the first just three minutes into the match when he headed in a free kick, before Shun Nagasawa doubled the lead nine minutes later with another header.
Nigerian-born Peter Utaka put Shimizu in a solid 3-0 lead on the 26th minute after receiving Genki Omae’s pass over the defence to find the net with a one-on-one chance against Norihiro Yamagishi.
Yamagata fought back with goals from Diego Souza and Nakashima in the final five minutes of regulation time, but Ryohei Hayashi put the away fans into pandemonium when he beat Tomoya Inukai to Toshiya Takagi’s cross to head in the equaliser with seconds remaining on the referee’s watch.
Shonan Bellmare 4-2 Sagan Tosu
(10′ Otsuki, 64′ Takayama, 70′ 76′ Shimamura / 37′ Taniguchi, 77′ Toyoda)
Last year’s J2 League champions Shonan Bellmare stamped some authority on the top division in a six-goal thriller against a resilient Sagan Tosu.
A fast attack gave Shonan the opener 10 minutes into the encounter, with Shuhei Otsuki pouncing on the rebound after Yohei Otake’s header went straight into goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi. The two sides went back into the locker rooms on equal terms after Naoyuki Fujita floated in a free kick that was met just inside the penalty area by Hiroyuki Taniguchi and directed perfectly into the opposite corner.
Kaoru Takayama put Shonan back in the lead after the hour mark when the ball was found at his feet following a scramble between several players on the edge of the box. Takayama then dribbled across the penalty area and around the tight defensive line to find space to shoot.
Yohei Toyoda came close to equalising again for Tosu, but Tsuyoshi Shimamura’s following brace put the game beyond doubt. The first of the defender’s goals was scored when he directed Otake’s corner kick into the far net, while the second was again set up by Otake, this time with the midfielder making a run through the defence to find space to shoot; Taku Akahoshi punched the ball straight into the path of Shimamura, who made no mistake with the gift of a goal in his sights.
Toyoda found a consolation goal for Tosu just a minute after Shimamura’s second, flicking on Fujita’s long throw in with his head to see the path of the ball fortunate to take Yota Akimoto by surprise.
Gamba Osaka 1-0 Matsumoto Yamaga
Second place Gamba Osaka kept themselves fighting for top spot with a single goal from pacey forward Takashi Usami, who helped the defending champions take three points against J-League newcomers Matsumoto Yamaga.
Brazilian striker Patric had the first real chance of the match, but his shot from less than two metres went straight into the feet of Tomohiko Murayama. Patric sacrificed another chance to score shortly after, however, when he and Usami combined to beat three Matsumoto defenders and Murayama as Usami played across to Patric into space, before the ball was played back again to Usami to finish with conviction.
A more determined and organised Matsumoto came out in the second half as the two sides battled on a much more even playing field, but the defences and both goalkeepers did enough to keep it scoreless for the remaining 45 minutes.
Vissel Kobe 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Despite all of their efforts, Nagoya Grampus could only come away with a single goal to go with their three points from nearby Kobe.
Asahi Yada’s corner in the 55th minute was headed towards goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto by Marcus Tulio Tanaka, with the towering Brazilian-Japanese defender’s shot pushed into the path of Kensuke Nagai, whose quick reflexes were enough to poke the ball into the back of the net.
Chances from Nagai and Yoshizumi Ogawa were sent wide of the uprights to the disbelief of both players and supporters, giving the game a bizarre feeling and making Nagai’s goal feel even more valuable for the Aichi Prefecture-based side who have struggled to find their feet under former Gamba Osaka coach Akira Nishino.
Yokohama F. Marinos 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
(5′ Ito / 26′ Douglas, 65′ Sato)
An early goal couldn’t hold Sanfrecce Hiroshima back from keeping themselves near the top of the league table, coming back with a goal in each half to earn a 2-1 win.
The fifth-minute strike seemed like a glimmer of hope for the high-priced Yokohama side sitting in the bottom half of the table, with Manabu Saito playing a low pass to Ademilson at the edge of the defensive line, who played a first-time pass across to the on-running Sho Ito to make no mistake with a precise shot across the face of goal and off the upright.
Sanfrecce got the equaliser in the 26th minute when Kosei Shibasaki passed through the space between the Yokohama midfield and defence to Tokushima Vortis loanee striker Douglas, who evaded Fabio to shoot past Yuji Nakazawa’s attempts to block and into the net.
Prolific striker Hisato Sato found the winner in the 65th minute after Tetsuya Enomoto fumbled his save from a Sanfrecce set piece, with the former J-League MVP in the right position to poke home with little resistance.
Ventforet Kofu 0-2 Urawa Reds
(74′ Umesaki, 79′ Zlatan)
It was top versus bottom as league leaders Urawa Reds faced boogeyman side Ventforet Kofu, who sit at the bottom of the table. Urawa managed to break their hoodoo against the Yamanashi Prefecture outfit with a 2-0 win.
After little goalmouth action from either side in the first 45 minutes, Urawa took control of the second half and held possession in the Kofu half, hoping to prevent any attempted quick breaks from the home side against their high defensive line. Tsukasa Umesaki finally broke the deadlock with 16 minutes left on the clock, pouncing on a cross from Yosuke Kashiwagi that fell between goalkeeper Kota Ogi and the rest of the pack.
The lead was doubled five minutes later when the referee awarded a penalty after Takahiro Sekine was adjudged to have been brought down with a misjudged challenge from Shohei Abe.
Zlatan Ljubijankic stepped up to the spot and sent his penalty to the left, meeting the expectations of a diving Ogi who could only keep the ball out of the net long enough for Zlatan to pounce again on the rebound.