Football Tribe SEA Editor
Saturday marked the restart of the 2020 J.League 1 season and with teams taking on opponents from their vicinity, a number of tasty clashes were served out in the J1’s restart. Headlining the J1 restart was the Osaka Derby, where Cerezo Osaka travel to the Panasonic Stadium Suita to take on city rivals Gamba Osaka. With one win apiece from their Matchweek 1 ties prior to the COVID-19 suspension, both Osaka clubs were eager to resume their seasons with all three points.
The July 4th 2020 edition of the Osaka Derby was a momentous occasion for Gamba veteran midfielder and living legend Yasuhito Endo. The 40-year old was playing his 632nd J1 match in a career that spanned 23 years, an all-time J1 record. However, Cerezo were more than happy to spoil Endo’s party after they took the lead during the closing stages of a first half that saw Gamba carving out a number of golden opportunities and squandering each and every one of them.
With half-time looming, Yusuke Maruhashi sent a cross from the left wing towards Hiroaki Okuno, who gladly slammed the ball immediately beyond the reaches of Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi. 1-0 Cerezo and that was the scoreline as the referee blew for half-time at an empty Panasonic Stadium Suita.
Unwilling to sit on their laurels just yet, Cerezo doubled their lead in the 61st minute. Hiroshi Kiyotake worked the ball within the Gamba penalty area, passing it short towards the oncoming Maruhashi who fired a cannonball of a shot from outside the area that penetrated the Gamba goal. 2-0 and Cerezo were cruising thanks to that screamer.
Gamba did had enough time to pull one back in the 67th minute thanks to an Ademilson penalty, but Cerezo managed to cling onto their 2-1 victory, earning themselves all three points and with it the bragging rights of being Osaka’s best.
Another derby took place in Oita, where Oita Trinita welcome Sagan Tosu to an empty Showa Denko Dome for a Kyushu Derby match. Substitute Tatsuya Tanaka bagged a second half brace to ensure a straightforward 2-0 win for Oita, their first league win of the season.
2019 J1 runners-up FC Tokyo were also victorious in the restart, shaking off solid resistance from 2019 J2 champions Kashiwa Reysol to eke out a hard-fought 1-0 win at the Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium. It took Kashiwa being reduced to 10 men thanks to a Richardson red card and a 67th minute winner from Tsuyoshi Watanabe shortly afterwards to ensure that FC Tokyo’s perfect start to the season continues despite the lengthy league suspension.
Elsewhere, star-studded Vissel Kobe were shockingly defeated 3-0 at home by Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Despite Vissel playing the likes of Kyogo Furuhashi, Andres Iniesta, Sergei Samper, Hotaru Yamaguchi and Douglas, a brace from Leandro Pereira and a goal from Yuya Asano ensured that it was Sanfrecce who left the Misaki Park Stadium with all three points.
Thai international Chanathip Songkrasin bagged an assist while Musashi Suzuki grabbed himself a brace as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo edge out newly promoted Yokohama FC 2-1 at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama, while Kawasaki Frontale’s 2-1 home win over Kashima Antlers ensured that not even the COVID-19 suspension could halt Kashima head coach Antonio Carlos Zago’s nightmare start to the season.
Nagoya Grampus managed to shake off their COVID-19 woes by beating hosts Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira, with Mitchell Langerak starting in goal and Mu Kanazaki coming off from the bench for Nagoya, both of whom having been tested positive for COVID-19 in early June. Thai international Teerasil Dangda was also present in the match, coming off the bench for Shimizu in the second half.
Defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos were still searching for that first win of the season after being held to a goalless draw by hosts Urawa Red Diamonds in Saitama, while an early Ryo Germain goal was the difference as Vegalta Sendai edged out hosts Shonan Bellmare 1-0 at the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka.
With Matchweek 2 finally done and dusted, three teams share the J1 summit with two wins out of two – Sanfrecce, FC Tokyo, and Cerezo. Meawhile, at the other end of the table, Shonan, Shimizu, and Kashima were yet to register a point so far this season. Alarm bells should go off in full swing for Kashima, as underneath Zago, they were still yet to register a win in any competition this season. Should the former Red Bull Bragantino head coach fail to turn things around at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, the Antlers are set for a long and arduous season that will see them battle to avoid the drop instead of aiming for silverware as they usually do.