A day after the J-League celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its inaugural season, the battle at the bottom of the table became a lot tighter and the lead at the top was extended in the 12th round.
Kashiwa Reysol 0-0 Shonan Bellmare
The early game of the round, played on Thursday to ease the schedule for Kashiwa Reysol’s AFC Champions League commitments, ended in a scoreless stalemate.
The two sides seesawed in chances, but the best near-chance of the first half came when Daisuke Kikuchi crossed to Kaoru Takayama, whose header hit the woodwork before being ruled offside.
Cristiano forced a leaping save in the second half from Lee Ho-seung with his header from close to the edge of the box, with Lee managing to tip the ball the bar over with one hand.
Wataru Endo soon after put Takayama behind the Kashiwa defensive line with a through pass, but Takanori Sugeno was quick off his line to block the attempt, leaving both sides frustrated as they failed to make their chances count.
Ventforet Kofu 2-0 Montedio Yamagata
(12′ Abe, 30′ Bare)
Having removed manager Yasuhiro Higuchi on mutual agreement during the week, Ventforet Kofu bounced back with a 2-0 win over newly-promoted Montedio Yamagata to bring themselves closer to the rest of the table.
Takuma Abe put the struggling side ahead, reaching Ryohei Arai’s pass in the first fifteen minutes.
Veteran Brazilian striker Bare doubled Kofu’s lead at the half hour mark, as the Brazilian gently stroked his penalty kick into the left corner, sending Norihiro Yamagishi the wrong way to give general manager Satoru Sakuma his first three points as interim head coach.
Matsumoto Yamaga 2-0 Vissel Kobe
(62′ Maeda, 90+5′ Abe)
Matsumoto proved their ground is starting to become a true fortress for the newly-promoted side, who have now added the scalp of Vissel Kobe to their collection with a 2-0 win.
After a goalless first hour, Tokyo Verdy loanee Naoki Maeda gave Yamaga the lead when he received the ball from Hayuma Tanaka on the right and cut inside with a couple of stepovers before slotting the ball into the far corner of the net.
Yoshiro Abe scored the hosts’ second five minutes into additional time, finishing from Obina’s squared pass after the Brazilian forward stole the ball from a throw in and raced into the penalty area.
Albirex Niigata 0-3 Vegalta Sendai
(11′ & 65′ Okuno, 79′ Kim)
Albirex Niigata continued their torrid relegation-threatening run as a Hiroaki Okuno brace in Vegalta’s 3-0 victory left them second-last on the table.
The scoring started for Vegalta after the clock ticked past ten minutes, when Albirex’s failure to clear the danger turned into calamity as Okuno met Hidetaka Kanazono’s header to go through one-on-one. He scored his second of the match after the hour mark, driving home a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Kim sealed the game with a third goal against the disheartened Albirex when he anticipated the ball as Albirex’s interception landed in the path of his run, with the midfielder using his pace to get into the box and slot his shot past Tatsuya Morita.
Kashima Antlers 2-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
(64′ Ogasawara, 68′ Dinei / 51′ Sato, 69′ Shibasaki)
A flurry of three goals in five minutes saw two of the league’s co-founders share points as Sanfrecce and Kashima battled to a 2-2 draw at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
A scoreless first half full of attacking intent led to four goals in the remaining 45 minutes, with Hisato Sato scoring just six minutes into the second half by pouncing on the loose ball after Hitoshi Sogahata attempted to play a long ball from the goal area, letting the prolific striker slot into an open net.
Antlers equalised when Mitsuo Ogasawara converted a penalty gievn away by Kazuhiko Chiba, while new Brazilian striker Dinei put them ahead four minutes later with a caressed shot from Shoma Doi’s squared ball after an error at the back saw Sanfrecce caught out in transition.
The lead lasted only five minutes, with Sanfrecce hitting back through Kosei Shibasaki as a feint from Takuma Asano put the 30-year-old midfielder through the defence to squeeze the ball past Sogahata into the far netting.
Shimizu S-Pulse 1-2 Yokohama F. Marinos
(61′ Utaka / 29′ Mikado, 64′ Fujimoto)
Shimizu S-Pulse struggled as Yokohama F. Marinos lucked their way to three points in a 2-1 victory at IAI Stadium Nihondaira.
Genki Omae missed a perfect chance early in the game to put Shimizu ahead as Peter Utaka turned into the penalty box to pass to him, only for his shot at an open net to go narrowly wide of the post.
It allowed Yokohama to go ahead and Yuto Mikado took advantage just before the half hour mark, taking Manabu Saito’s backheel pass and shooting from outside the box into bottom corner.
Utaka was listed as the equalising goalscorer on the 61st minute, when his side’s quick transition saw Omae’s pass deflected off the boot of Kosuke Nakamachi’s boot for Utaka inside the penalty area. While he took credit for the goal, the ball curiously appeared to come off the attempted clearance from Yuji Nakazawa.
The fanfare would only last for a few minutes, as Jungo Fujimoto put Yokohama back in front with a deft first touch to put himself behind the defence from Yuzo Kobayashi’s pass, both starting and finishing the move in the attacking half.
Urawa Reds 4-1 FC Tokyo
(5′ Lee, 42′ Sekine, 47′ Muto, 77′ Umesaki / 74′ Maeda)
Urawa maintained their undefeated start to the league season as the table-toppers faced second-place FC Tokyo to extend their lead against the rest of the teams below.
The Reds got off to a flying start with a goal in just the fifth minute, with Tomoya Ugajin sending a low cross behind the defensive line to meet Tadanari Lee’s outstretched boot. Their lead was doubled before half time when Ugajin again provided the assist, this time a cross on the counter attack to Takahiro Sekine, whose volley sneaked past Shuichi Gonda.
The second half started even quicker than the first, with Urawa finding the net just over a minute into the encounter, when Yuki Muto met Sekine’s centred ball to slide it inside the far post.
FC Tokyo struggled to threaten for the majority of the game as Urawa dominated both possession and the shot count, but the capital club may have thought they found a way back in when Ryoichi Maeda powered in Kosuke Ota’s cross to convert their first shot on target for the whole game.
Urawa quickly put an end to the doubts with a reply three minutes later, when Tsukasa Umesaki stole the ball from Takuji Yonemoto at the edge of the box and curled his shot out of Gonda’s reach for a convincing 4-1 win.
Gamba Osaka 1-1 Kawasaki Frontale
(44′ Usami / 81′ Sugimoto)
Gamba Osaka were made to pay for their inability to capitalise on a dominant first half, with Kawasaki Frontale getting away with a late goal to share points in a 1-1 draw.
Kenta Hasegawa’s side had ten attempts at goal before netting the opener, with Takashi Usami pouncing just before half time on the blocked shot of Hiroyuki Abe to take the ball into space inside the penalty to raise his season tally to ten goals.
Frontale came out firing in the second half, but still needed close to half an hour to get their equaliser, with substitute Kenyu Sugimoto heading the ball off the post and into the net, leaving Masaaki Higashiguchi blushing as the ball bounced off him while he scrambled to save from behind the line.
Gamba may consider themselves lucky to not have finished the match with ten men, after Keisuke Iwashita received a yellow card for pulling down Yoshito Okubo as the striker raced towards the penalty area in additional time.
Nagoya Grampus 0-1 Sagan Tosu
Nagoya Grampus continued to struggle to find defensive stability under Akihiro Nishino, this time conceding a late goal to Yohei Toyoda to remain mid-table.
Despite 38 attempts combined attempts, neither side was able to break the deadlock until additional time of the second half, when Daichi Kamada played the ball through to Toyoda, who dinked the ball over Seigo Narazaki as Yusuke Muta couldn’t keep up with the striker.