East Asia Japan

Late Goals Save J1 Quartet From Defeat

Matchweek 15 of the 2020 J.League 1 season was played out on Wednesday night, with four matches being decided by late goals. Goals scored beyond the 80th minute mark earned victories for league leaders Kawasaki Frontale and FC Tokyo, while at the same time salvaging draws for Urawa Red Diamonds and Oita Trinita.

Kawasaki managed to shrug off a slight blip of form on late August that saw them drop points in consecutive J1 matches, steamrolling their opponents in their last 3 matches in all competitions. Wednesday’s J1 action saw Toru Oniki’s league leaders hosting Vissel Kobe, their third encounter in 15 days. Vissel managed to force Kawasaki to a 3-3 draw in the league on August 26th, however they were utterly demolished 6-0 by Kawasaki in the J.League Cup on September 2nd. Memories of that painful defeat still lingered within the memories of Thorsten Fink’s Vissel and they visit the Todoroki Athletics Stadium on Wednesday with vengeance in mind.

Yu Kobayashi gave the league leaders an 8th minute lead with a penalty, however Vissel struck back in the 23rd minute, with Noriaki Fujimoto and Kyogo Furuhashi combining together excellently for the away side’s equalizer, which was scored by the latter. Former Oita man Fujimoto then gave Vissel the lead in the 59th minute, taking good advantage of a cross given to him by Hotaru Yamaguchi.

However, just as Vissel were preparing to celebrate their three points over a side that had humiliated them only a week earlier, Ryuho Kikuchi clumsily fouled Leandro Damiao inside the Kawasaki penalty box in the 83rd minute, prompting the referee to award Kawasaki another penalty. Damiao took the penalty himself and duly equalized for Kawasaki, before, much to Vissel’s horror, the league leaders turned the match in their favor only two minutes afterwards. Buoyed by their equalizer, Kawasaki mounted a counterattack, which saw substitute Yasuto Wakizaka laying a through ball towards fellow substitute Taisei Miyashiro. The 20-year old striker made no mistake with his finish that went beyond the reaches of Vissel goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura, earning himself his first ever J1 goal while at the same time condemning Vissel to another painful defeat.

Meanwhile, at the Showa Denko Dome, hosts Oita found themselves 2-0 down to basement dwellers Shonan Bellmare in the opening 15 minutes of the match, thanks to a quick-fire double from Naoki Ishihara in the 7th minute and Kazuki Oiwa in the 11th minute. With no further goals in the first half and much of the second half, it seems that Tomohiro Katanosaka’s men were set for a shock defeat at the hands of the J1’s last-placers.

However, Toshio Shimakawa sparked the Oita comeback in the 78th minute, before substitute Kohei Isa rescued a point for the Turtles in the 88th minute, ensuring that Oita would not suffer a third consecutive defeat in the league with the 2-2 draw.

An 81st minute goal from Yuki Muto salvaged a point for Urawa as they held off a spirited Sagan Tosu in a 2-2 draw at the Saitama Stadium 2002, while an 85th minute Taichi Hara winner ensured that FC Tokyo completed a 2-1 comeback over Yokohama FC at the Ajinomoto Stadium.

There were late goals at the Kashima Soccer Stadium as well, however after Ayase Ueda had given Kashima Antlers a 2-0 lead over Vegalta Sendai in the 83rd minute, the hosts were forced to undergo a nervy finish after Vegalta halved the deficit in the 87th minute thanks to Shun Nagasawa. The Antlers survived those tense few minutes though and they escaped the encounter with a 2-1 victory to their name.

Elsewhere, defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Nagoya Grampus, while a Hiroaki Okuno double ensured that Cerezo Osaka easily passed the challenge posed to them by Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo with a 2-0 victory at the Nagai Stadium.

Last but not least, both Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kashiwa Reysol enjoyed straightforward wins at the comforts of their homes, with Sanfrecce smashing Shimizu S-Pulse 4-1 at the Hiroshima Big Arch while Michael Olunga scores yet again for Kashiwa as they hammer Gamba Osaka 3-0 at the Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium.