East Asia Japan

Title Race Heats Up as Kashima Drops Points

Krishna Sadhana

Football Tribe SEA Editor


The 29th Matchweek of the J.League 1 was played out last Friday, October 18th and Saturday, October 19th, with the results once again having a significant impact on both the title race and the race to avoid relegation. Here’s a quick recap on what happened on J1’s Matchweek 29…

League leaders Kashima Antlers visited relegation-threatened Matsumoto Yamaga on Friday, hoping for three points to extend their lead over 2nd placed FC Tokyo in the standings. However, determined to avoid relegation to the very end, Matsumoto shocked their more illustrious opponents with a quick strike from Ryo Nagai in the 9th minute. Stunned by the quick opener, Kashima mustered hard for an equalizer which came in the 58th minute courtesy of an Ayase Ueda penalty. Matsumoto defended well to prevent a Kashima winner, however, and emerged out from the match with a hard-fought point, with Kashima leaving the Sunpro Alwin Stadium bitterly disappointed. While it was an important point in Matsumoto’s fight against relegation, it was two points lost for Go Oiwa’s squad who are seeking all three points from the match in order to fend off the challenge of FC Tokyo, who are playing on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a last-minute goal once again made itself known in Oita Trinita’s match for the third straight matchweek, however unlike the previous two goals, this time it worked in Tomohiro Katanosaka men’s favor. Visiting the Saitama Stadium 2002 to answer the challenge of Urawa Red Diamonds, Oita were greeted with a full-strength team from Urawa head coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki, despite having a crunch tie away at Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao in the Asian Champions League waiting in the horizon. Surely enough Urawa dictated the match over their newly-promoted opponents, peppering Shun Takagi’s goal with 18 shots, though only 4 of those are on target. Despite matching Urawa in terms of possession, Oita could only muster 4 shots with 2 of them on target, however one of those turned out to be the winning goal of the match. In the 3rd minute of injury time, Yusuke Goto, a faithful servant of Oita since the club’s dark days in the J3 back in 2016, once again proved himself to be a valuable asset for the Turtles as he scored Oita’s only goal of the match. The victory, coupled with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo’s 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Cerezo Osaka on the same day, meant that Oita moved up to 7th in the table, while Urawa are left depending on their Asian campaign to save their disappointing season.

Coming into Saturday’s match away at Misaki Park Stadium against Vissel Kobe, FC Tokyo knew that a win would be more than enough to put pressure on leaders Kashima. And a win is what FC Tokyo got – Yojiro Takahagi (6′), Arthur Silva (10′), and Kento Hashimoto (34′) all scored in the first half for the capital side, before Joan Oumari scored a 66th minute consolation for Vissel’s star-studded squad. The 3-1 win meant that FC Tokyo are now level on top with Kashima, with the Ibaraki side remaining as leaders thanks to their better goal difference. Should Kashima slip up again in Matchweek 30, the doors would be left open for Kenta Hasegawa’s men to regain their position on top of the table.

Elsewhere at the Yamaha Stadium, bottom-side Jubilo Iwata played out an entertaining 2-2 draw against fellow relegation-battlers Sagan Tosu, with former Pattaya United and Chonburi man Lukian scoring his first goal for Jubilo in the 2nd minute of added time before the end of the first half. Lukian’s goal had canceled out Isaac Cuenca’s 12th minute opener for Sagan, however, the Kyushu side fought back in the 2nd half and regained the lead thanks to Mu Kanazaki in the 67th minute. Adailton rescued Jubilo in the 84th minute, and while the point didn’t move Jubilo off the bottom of the table, it did move Sagan out of the relegation play-off zone as at the same time, Yokohama F. Marinos defeated Shonan Bellmare 3-1 at the Nissan Stadium, pushing the Hiratsuka side into the relegation play-off zone. Shonan are in a club in crisis right now, not only the Yokohama defeat was their 4th straight defeat, they are left rudderless after head coach Cho Kwi-jea has officially resigned earlier this month after a 5-match suspension due to allegations of verbal and physical abuse against his own players as well as the Shonan staff.

Saturday’s other results saw Sanfrecce Hiroshima coming from behind and beating Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Vegalta Sendai beating hosts Nagoya Grampus at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium 2-0, and defending champions Kawasaki Frontale playing out a 2-2 draw against Gamba Osaka at the Panasonic Stadium Suita.