The five-day weekend brought out J-League fans in droves, with two Kanto-area matches alone drawing a combined attendance of over 90,000.
Nagoya Grampus 3-0 Shonan Bellmare
(35′ Nagai, 42′ Kawamata, 82′ Tanaka)
Nagoya Grampus earned their second straight league win with a deserved 3-0 victory over Shonan Bellmare.
After withstanding an early Shonan attack, it was Grampus who struck first in the 35th minute after recent national team call-up Kensuke Nagai coolly finished a counter attack.
Riki Matsuda’s 40th-minute shot struck the crossbar to deny a second goal, but two minutes later Kengo Kawamata made it 2-0 with his fourth goal of the season.
The second half saw Grampus adopt a more defensive posture against Bellmare, who struggled to create any chances. Their hopes of a late comeback were dashed in the 82nd minute when Marcus Tulio Tanaka capitalised on a set piece for the home side’s third and final goal of the match.
Montedio Yamagata 1-0 Yokohama F. Marinos
A bumper home crowd came out to see underdogs Montedio Yamagata stage a thrilling upset over the visiting Yokohama F. Marinos.
Marinos pressured the home goal early, with Brazilian striker Rafinha in particular causing trouble for the Montedio defence. Their closest chance may have come late in the first half, when Takumi Shimohira’s header forced a desperate goal line clearance by Montedio defender Tatsuya Ishikawa.
Ishikawa came through in a big way just seven minutes into the second half, when his superb corner kick made its way to Shogo Nishikawa who deftly headed in the only goal of the match.
Marinos coach Erick Mombaerts brought on some more attacking talent in Jungo Fujimoto and Ademilson soon after, but Montedio goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi delivered a splendid performance over the rest of the match to wrap up three points for the hosts.
Urawa Reds 1-0 Gamba Osaka
A late goal kept Urawa Reds on top of the J1 table with a win over defending champions Gamba.
The Saitama Stadium battle between first and second place teams drew over 52,000 fans, who witnessed a first half largely devoid of chances.
Urawa steadily gained momentum as the second half went on, limiting Gamba to just one corner kick and pressuring goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi.
The deciding goal came with just six minutes to spare as Slovenian international Zlatan found himself on the receiving end of a well-placed cross, scoring his second of the year to keep the 2006 J1 champions in first place.
Kashima Antlers 0-1 Ventforet Kofu
Ventforet Kofu scored a huge upset with their 1-0 victory over Kashima Antlers at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
With six players changed from their previous starting lineup, it was clear that Antlers had trouble finding a rhythm as their attack failed to build. Those issues were exacerbated in the 22nd minute when coach Toninho Cerezo was forced to substitute out a bloodied Naomichi Ueda.
Antlers’ Brazilian starlet Caio nearly put his side on the board in the 38th minute but his low shot bounced hard off the woodwork.
The halftime introduction of veteran Mitsuo Ogasawara looked as though it might bring stability to the home side, but instead it was Ventforet’s Junya Ito with an athletic effort from inside the penalty area who scored the match’s only goal.
A more unusual substitution took place just after the hour mark, when guest referee Christopher Beath possibly fell ill and was replaced by fourth official Shuichiro Mikani.
Ogasawara’s 72nd-minute free kick forced a spectacular save by Kota Ogi, who eventually collected his clean sheet as Ventforet broke a six-game losing streak.
Kashiwa Reysol 0-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Just three days after scoring four goals in a rout of Kawasaki Frontale, Kashiwa Reysol were unable to light up the scoreboard again as they slumped to a scoreless draw against woeful Shimizu S-Pulse.
A first half light on chances made way for an equally tepid second half, although Reysol midfielder Cristiano did his best to break the deadlock with a free kick that required Rikihiro Sugiyama’s parry to avoid going into the net.
The result leaves S-Pulse, now in 17th place with just six points from nine matches, with an eight game losing streak in the league. Eighth-place Reysol will next face a J-League opponent on May 10 as they will travel mid-week to play Vietnam’s Becamex Binh Duong in an AFC Champions League dead rubber.
FC Tokyo 2-1 Kawasaki Frontale
(71′ Ota, 87′ Muto / 21′ Okubo)
A historic Yoshito Okubo goal wasn’t enough for Kawasaki Frontale, who fell 2-1 to FC Tokyo in the sold-out ‘Tamagawa Clasico’.
Much like their encounter over a year ago at Ajinomoto Stadium, the visitors controlled the pace from the outset and it was no surprise when veteran Okubo headed in Kengo Nakamura’s free kick for his 140th J1 goal, enough to overcome legend Kazuyoshi Miura for fourth place on the all-time list.
After failing to register a shot on goal in the first half, the tide turned for FC Tokyo in the 64th minute when Frontale defender Shintaro Kurumaya was shown a second yellow card. The hosts capitalised on the man advantage seven minutes later when Kosuke Ota’s free kick bent around the wall and past a poorly-positioned Yohei Nishibe.
Just three minutes from full time, Ota set up the game-winner when another of his free kicks was headed in by Yoshinori Muto, whose sixth goal of the season gave the capital club their first Clasico win since April 2013 and saw them finish the day in second place.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 Vegalta Sendai
(37′ Notsuda, 77′ Asano)
Two youngsters found the back of the net for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their 2-0 win over Vegalta Sendai, who are now winless in their last five league fixtures.
Sanfrecce came into the match strong, immediately pressuring the struggling visitors. Kosei Shibasaki’s 21st-minute shot from outside the penalty area hit the crossbar, nearly breaking the deadlock.
The first goal of the match came from nearly an identical spot, with 20-year-old Gakuto Notsuda’s right-footed effort impossible for Yuji Rokutan to reach in time.
He was joined on the scoreboard by his team-mate of the same age, Takuma Asano, in the 77th minute. The Mie Prefecture native missed several chances earlier in the match, but on this occasion he outran two defenders to receive the deep cross before sending the ball past Rokutan and ensuring that Sanfrecce would finish the day in fourth place.
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-2 Albirex Niigata
(23′ Maeda / 7′ Leo Silva (PG), 83′ Yamamoto)
Struggling Albirex Niigata found a much-needed win over Matsumoto Yamaga in the intimidating confines of Alwin Stadium.
The match got off to a rough start for the hosts when defender Keita Goto pulled down Albirex striker Hiroshi Ibusuki in the box, with Australian referee Jarred Gillett blowing his whistle and pointing to the spot.
Leo Silva was the man to convert, but Albirex’s lead lasted just 16 minutes as Yamaga midfielder Naoki Maeda sent a rocket from the far corner of the penalty area into the back of the net to equalise.
The hosts came close to taking the lead just before half time when Albirex goalkeeper Tatsuya Morita fumbled a free kick, resulting in the need for a desperate close-range save of Masaki Iida’s effort.
Albirex came close to a game-winner with a series of close-range attempts in the 71st minute, but the deciding goal would instead come courtesy of Kosuke Yamamoto’s grounder with seven minutes remaining in regulation time.
Sagan Tosu 1-1 Vissel Kobe
(4′ Toyoda / 77′ Ogawa)
An early goal was not enough for Sagan Tosu, who settled for a 1-1 draw with Vissel Kobe.
Wearing Juventus-style uniforms on a special giveaway night, Sagan took the lead in just four minutes when Yohei Toyoda smartly headed in a corner kick.
The lead nearly doubled in the 12th minute when South Korean international Kim Min-woo found himself alone in front of the Vissel goal, but his glancing header was well wide.
After enduring the Sagan attack for 45 minutes, Vissel Kobe began to show signs of a fightback in the second half. They were rewarded for their patience in the 77th minute when Keijiro Ogawa split two defenders and tapped the ball past goalkeeper Taku Akahoshi for the equaliser.
The draw was enough for Vissel to move up to ninth in the standings, while a disappointed Sagan fell to seventh.