Nagoya Grampus’ attacking midfielder Naoki Maeda gave out a performance that would make Ultraman himself proud on Saturday as he scored four goals in his team’s 6-2 demolition job of Urawa Red Diamonds. Maeda scored a 38-minute hat-trick as Nagoya cruised to a 5-0 half-time lead, before a second half fightback from Urawa proved futile as Nagoya bounced back from their first league defeat of the season in some style.
Newly promoted Kashiwa Reysol had ended Nagoya’s unbeaten start to the J.League 1 season last time out and when Urawa visited the Toyota Stadium for Saturday’s Matchweek 9 encounter, Nagoya knew that they must make amends as soon as possible. And with that, as soon as the referee blew for kick-off, Nagoya went straight for the offensive.
The Aichi Prefecture-based team immediately went off on a flyer and took the lead in the 8th minute. Mu Kanazaki sent a through ball towards the Urawa penalty box, which was welcomed by Maeda with a shot that was fumbled by Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. With the ball back in his possession, Maeda deceived the onrushing Urawa defenders before tapping the ball home to make it 1-0 Nagoya.
Being a goal up did not stop Nagoya from attacking the Urawa defense relentlessly and within no time they soon made it 2-0. Maeda was once again the actor, with a much more straightforward strike in the 10th minute. Mateus crossed in the ball from the left side of the pitch towards Maeda, who slammed it past Nishikawa to double the home side’s advantage.
Urawa were being methodically torn apart by Nagoya and in the 17th minute Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s men found themselves three goals down. Brazilian defensive midfielder Joao Schmidt sent a thumping header into Nishikawa’s goal from a corner kick to widen the gap between Nagoya and Urawa, with the latter now trailing behind 3-0.
Even after being three goals to the good, Nagoya continued their merciless raid on Urawa’s defense and in the 38th minute they made it 4-0. Having assisted Schmidt’s goal, Brazilian attacking midfielder Gabriel Xavier once again became provider as he found Maeda, who rushed into the Urawa penalty box and slotted home a well-taken shot to complete his hat-trick.
Xavier then turned from creator to executor in the stroke of half-time, having received the ball from Kanazaki near the center circle. The Brazilian then sped his way into the Urawa defense by himself, before firing off a shot that went beyond Nishikawa’s reaches to make it 5-0 Nagoya. With the unassailable lead, Nagoya can afford to lower their pace as the referee signaled for half-time.
Urawa’s Brazilian striker Leonardo reduced the deficit for his team early in the second half, outmuscling his defenders in a scramble within Nagoya’s penalty box and fumbling in a consolation goal for Urawa. However, two minutes after Leonardo’s 47th minute goal, Maeda ensured that there would be no way back for Urawa, capping off an excellent counterattack with his fourth goal of the game, a quad-trick completed.
Leonardo did grab himself a brace in the 75th minute, but in the end the former Albirex Niigata player’s efforts were for naught as the game was beyond Urawa’s reach at that time. 6-2 in favor of Nagoya was the final score and Massimo Ficcadenti’s charges have secured the three points in a performance worth remembering for years to come.
Interestingly, Maeda celebrated his first three goals in the match with iconic gestures done by the heroes of the legendary Ultra Series, one of Japan’s best known tokusatsu media produced by Tsuburaya Productions. Maeda celebrated his first goal with Ultraman’s iconic Specium Ray pose, before switching to Ultraman Taro’s Strium Ray pose for his second goal, with the same pose adopted by Taro’s son Ultraman Taiga for his Strium Blaster. Ultraseven’s Emerium Ray pose was the celebration for Maeda’s hat-trick.
In Saturday’s other Matchweek 9 action, Kawasaki Frontale continued their unbeaten run after disposing Oita Trinita 2-0 at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium, a result that sent their Kyushu opponents free-falling into the league’s bottom three. The second Thailand Derby of the season between Shimizu S-Pulse and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at Shimizu’s IAI Stadium Nihondaira ended in a 3-1 victory for the hosts, in a match that saw Consadole finishing the match with 10 men after Shunta Tanaka’s second half dismissal. Thai internationals Chanathip Songkrasin and Teerasil Dangda played their part in the match that heavily featured them in promotional material, with Chanathip starting the match for Consadole and playing a good duration of it, while Teerasil came off the bench late into the match for Shimizu.
Gamba Osaka edged out Yokohama FC 2-1 at the Panasonic Stadium Suita, while Vissel Kobe were stunned by Vegalta Sendai 2-1 at the Misaki Park Stadium in Kobe. Kashima Antlers’ revival in the J1 continued with a 2-0 home win over Sagan Tosu at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, while defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos and defending J.League 2 champions Kashiwa played out a 1-1 draw at the Nissan Stadium, with Michael Olunga once again on the scoresheet for Kashiwa. The Kenyan international is now the current top scorer of the 2020 J1 season with 10 goals, attracting interest from Turkish Super Lig side Besiktas in the process.
Matchweek 9 continues on Sunday with Cerezo Osaka going up against FC Tokyo at the Nagai Stadium, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima lock horns with Shonan Bellmare at the Hiroshima Big Arch in the earlier kick-off.