Sunday’s J.League 1 action proved to be a matchweek to remember for Kyushu teams Sagan Tosu and Oita Trinita. The Southern duo managed to embarrass established opposition in their Matchweek 19 games, with Tosu smashing 3rd placed FC Tokyo 3-0 at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium while Oita managed to stun Kashima Antlers at their own backyard for a second consecutive year with a decisive 2-0 victory.
Having suffered three consecutive defeats in their previous three J1 matches, nobody could predict that Tosu would manage to snag all three points off an FC Tokyo side who are flying high in the J1 standings, let alone embarrass Kenta Hasegawa’s men with such an emphatic scoreline. But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, with Kim Myung-hwi’s charges utterly trouncing the favorites to keep themselves well afloat above the J1’s bottom three.
Kaisei Ishii opened the scoreline for Tosu in the 26th minute to give his team the 1-0 advantage. After receiving a short pass from Takeshi Kanamori, Ishii fired off a spectacular effort from the edge of the FC Tokyo penalty box, with the ball curving its way into the goal above the head of FC Tokyo goalie Akihiro Hayashi.
With Tosu 1-0 up at the break, Kim decided to introduce both Yuta Higuchi and Ryoya Morishita into the fray, with the two players replacing Kanamori and Hideto Takahashi respectively – Higuchi took Kanamori’s place during half-time while Ryoya replaced Hideto in the 50th minute. The substitutions proved to be an excellent move from Kim’s part, as both Higuchi and Ryoya combined to score Tosu’s second goal of the game in the 59th minute.
Higuchi sprayed the ball from the midfield towards the right wing, with Ryoya reaching the ball first before any of the FC Tokyo players could thanks to his pace. Ryoya then darted his way alongside the right wing deep into FC Tokyo’s defense before blasting in a shot from a narrow angle. Hayashi saw the ball coming and dived into the right direction, but the shot was quicker than the goalkeeper’s reflexes and Tosu have their two-goal advantage.
With his team now two goals down, Kenta decided to throw in some of his big guns into the pitch – Shuto Abe, Taichi Hara, and Leandro. But instead of cutting down the deficit by half, FC Tokyo instead found themselves three goals down in the 74th minute. Higuchi crossed the ball from the right wing towards Tomoya Koyamatsu, who was waiting patiently in the FC Tokyo penalty box. But instead of shooting straight towards Hayashi’s goal, Koyamatsu played the ball outside the box, passing it short towards Yuto Uchida. Almost immediately after receiving the ball, Yuto smashed in a cannonball of a shot from outside the area. The screamer caught Hayashi completely off guard and Tosu have gotten themselves their third goal – the very goal they needed to kill the game off.
Kenta had time to add more of his big guns in a futile bid to chase the game, with Hirotaka Mita and Kensuke Nagai taking the pitch. However, Tosu held onto their lead well into full-time, sealing a vital 3-0 victory that could help them move off the J1’s bottom half in the long run.
Meanwhile, at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, Tomohiro Katanosaka’s Oita put up a gritty performance and ground out all three points over Antonio Carlos Zago’s Kashima – the perfect revenge for the 4-1 humiliation that Kashima had dished out in Oita earlier in the season. Kashima were on a 7-game winning run and with the additional factor that is home ground advantage, the Ibaraki Prefecture-based side were clear favorites for Sunday evening’s game.
However, after forcing a goalless draw in the first half, Oita drew first blood in the 57th minute. Tatsuya Tanaka attempted a shot from the edge of the Kashima penalty box, only for a Kashima defender to stand in the way and block the shot. The loose ball came into the possession of Kazuki Kozuka, who smashed home a powerful shot that took a huge deflection off Kashima defender Katsuya Nagato and into Yuya Oki’s goal.
Oita then added another goal in the 80th minute, after Naoki Nomura had sent Yuya Takazawa on goal with a decisive through pass. Takazawa easily beat the Kashima offside trap before shooting the ball past an onrushing Oki to seal all three points for the Turtles. The 2-0 win cemented Oita’s position in the J1 mid-table, while at the same time forcing Kashima to drop into 6th place in the J1 standings.
Sunday’s early kick-off saw Cerezo Osaka edging out Vegalta Sendai 3-2 at the Yurtec Stadium courtesy of an injury time goal from Hiroshi Kiyotake, while the rest of the action from Sunday evening saw Gamba Osaka edging out Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 at the Hiroshima Big Arch, league leaders Kawasaki Frontale eking out a 1-0 win away at Shonan Bellmare, and defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos mounting a late rally to beat Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 at the Hitachi Stadium Kashiwa.