J1 League Recap: Iniesta, Torres debut but Vissel and Sagan falter

The 2018 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League’s 17th round marked a new chapter in the league’s history with the debut of newly-arrived superstars Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres. The two Spaniards started on the bench for Vissel Kobe and Sagan Tosu, both of whom played at home in front of bumper crowds.

Iniesta was the first to step onto a J.League pitch when he came on in the 59th minute of Vissel’s match against Shonan Bellmare. The visitors were by far the stronger of the two sides in the first hour of the match, amassing a 2-0 lead through goals by defender Keisuke Saka and 19-year-old Mitsuki Sato.

But despite some impressive passing and promising set pieces, the former Barcelona captain was unable to prevent an additional goal by Shunsuke Kikuchi as Bellmare ended the day as 3-0 winners, handing Vissel their first loss in four matches.

At Best Amenity Stadium, former Atletico Madrid man Torres looked more likely to change the course of the match when he came on in the 50th minute of what had until then been a scoreless draw against Vegalta Sendai. But the Tohoku side, who were coming off an 8-2 thrashing by Yokohama F. Marinos on Wednesday, held strong, triumphing 1-0 on a counter finished by Takuma Nishimura for his seventh goal of the year.

Second place FC Tokyo were dominant throughout their 5-2 win over Yokohama F. Marinos, amassing a 5-0 lead by the 64th minute with goals coming from Kosuke Ota, Diego Oliveira, Soutan Tanabe, Keigo Higashi, and rookie Makoto Okazaki. Marinos, whose manager Ange Postecoglou missed the match to visit his ill father, found consolation through a Hugo Viera penalty and a Kota Yamada strike shortly before full time.

The result narrowed Tokyo’s gap behind Sanfrecce Hiroshima to seven points after the leaders could only manage a scoreless draw at last place Nagoya Grampus. Meanwhile, third place Kawasaki Frontale stayed a point behind Tokyo with a 1-0 win against V-Varen Nagasaki.

Full Results: 2018 J1 League Round 17

Nagoya Grampus 0-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Vissel Kobe 0-3 Shonan Bellmare

Kashima Antlers 6-2 Kashiwa Reysol

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 0-0 Jubilo Iwata

FC Tokyo 5-2 Yokohama F. Marinos

Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 V-Varen Nagasaki

Gamba Osaka 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse

Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Urawa Reds

Sagan Tosu 0-1 Vegalta Sendai