It took almost a month and some frustratingly close calls, but the Yoshimeter is ticking over again.
Yoshito Okubo nodded in his 159th career Japanese top-flight goal in the dying moments of the match as Kawasaki Frontale beat Sagan Tosu 1-0 in Round 6 of the 2016 Meiji Yasuda J1 League.
Okubo and Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce Hiroshima both entered the season within striking distance of Masashi “Gon” Nakayama, who previously held the record at 157 goals. Sato moved into first place on 158 with his goal against Nagoya Grampus on March 6, but he has not scored in four league appearances since. Okubo had been stuck on 158 goals since scoring against Nagoya on March 12, only to come through on Sunday in dramatic fashion.
The action at Todoroki Stadium began with a flurry as Okubo and Tosu’s Kim Min-hyeok struck the woodwork inside the opening three minutes. Matters soon calmed down, though, and the match settled into a pattern of Kawasaki dominating possession and attacking intent but short-circuiting their own efforts through unforced errors. In fact, Tosu could have felt hard done by in leaving without a point as they forced Kawasaki goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong into twice as many saves as Akihiro Hayashi, including thwarting Choi Sung-keun one-on-one.
Instead, it was Okubo and Kawasaki’s day. An apparent winner by the striker just into second-half stoppage time was ruled out for offside, but he made good on his final touch of the match. Yu Kobayashi created space for himself down the left with an excellent turn, and his cross left Okubo with the simple task of heading in the decisive goal. While the Kawasaki team and fans celebrated, the Yoshimeter near the Section G entrance flipped over to 159, crowning a new all-time leading scorer in the Japanese top flight.
Kawasaki moved back into first place with 14 points, with previous leaders Urawa Reds slipping to third after drawing 0-0 at Yokohama F Marinos. Caio scored twice as Kashima Antlers jumped into second with a 4-1 home victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a somewhat surprising display considering Kashima had managed five goals in their previous five league matches.
Elsewhere, Omiya Ardija sent Nagoya Grampus to their fifth consecutive loss in all competitions by winning 2-1 at Toyota Stadium. Hiroyuki Komoto and Jin Izumisawa scored for the visitors after Robin Simovic had put Nagoya ahead with a penalty kick. Gamba Osaka ended their run of four straight losses with a 3-1 triumph at Vegalta Sendai, with Shun Nagasawa, Takashi Usami, and Ademilson scoring inside the first 15 minutes.
Cristiano scored twice in second-half stoppage time to hand Ventforet Kofu a 3-1 home win over Shonan Bellmare and three precious points in a match between two struggling sides. Jay Bothroyd returned to the top of this season’s scoring charts with six goals as he converted two penalty kicks in Jubilo Iwata’s 2-1 win at Albirex Niigata, an ill-tempered match that featured eight yellow cards. Avispa Fukuoka ground out a 0-0 draw at Vissel Kobe, while Junya Tanaka’s 82nd-minute penalty secured a 1-0 win for Kashiwa Reysol over FC Tokyo, who debuted former Guangzhou Evergrande striker Muriqui late in the second half.
Stage 1, Round 6
Yokohama F Marinos 0-0 Urawa Reds
Nagoya Grampus 1-2 Omiya Ardija
Vissel Kobe 0-0 Avispa Fukuoka
Vegalta Senda 1-3 Gamba Osaka
Ventforet Kofu 3-1 Shonan Bellmare
Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Sagan Tosu
Kashima Antlers 4-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Albirex Niigata 1-2 Jubilo Iwata
Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 FC Tokyo