Kenya international Michael Olunga once again stepped up to the plate for Kashiwa Reysol as he scored a first half brace to help his team to a 4-3 win over Vissel Kobe in Saturday’s J.League 1 Matchweek 21 action. Kashiwa raced to a 4-0 lead at the Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium, however Vissel mounted a spirited fightback to reduce the four goal cushion into just one. The late dismissal of Shunki Takahashi made things slightly trickier for Kashiwa in the dying seconds of the match, however they held on for all three points in a result that ended Atsuhiro Miura’s 100% record as Vissel’s new head coach.
Having scored two goals in Kashiwa’s last outing, – a 3-0 win away at Yokohama FC – Olunga looked as hungry as ever as his team faced off against a star-studded Vissel side, who started their heavy hitters in Andres Iniesta, Douglas, Kyogo Furuhashi, Hotaru Yamaguchi and Thomas Vermaelen on Saturday. The former Girona striker opened the scoreline for Kashiwa in the 20th minute, taking advantage of a pass from Kashiwa talisman Cristiano.
Ataru Esaka then made it 2-0 in the 39th minute, with Cristiano once again playing a pivotal part in the goal’s buildup. Only a few minutes later with half-time in sight, Olunga made it 3-0 Kashiwa in the 44th minute with his 21st league goal of the season, making good use of a Yuta Kamiya shot that was rebounded towards him by Vissel goalkeeper Daiya Maekawa.
Esaka then bagged a brace of his own in the 52nd minute, latching onto a short pass from Masatoshi Mihara before firing a cannonball of a shot from outside the area that went straight for the bottom right corner.
With Kashiwa now 4-0 up, it seems that the 2019 J.League 2 champions are coasting towards an easy win over their star-studded opponents. However, a 60th minute Junya Tanaka goal gave Vissel a brief glimmer of hope, with Tanaka making good use of low cross given to him by Daigo Nishi.
Tanaka then struck again in the 75th minute to reduce the deficit even further, before an 87th minute penalty from Iniesta sent Kashiwa into high alert – their lofty lead now chiseled down to a mere single goal. To make things even more nervy for Kashiwa, Takahashi received his second yellow card and his marching orders in the dying seconds of the match, ensuring that Nelsinho Baptista’s men were made to work hard to retain their slender advantage. Thankfully for Kashiwa, Iniesta’s penalty was the last goal of the game and the men in yellow managed to end Miura’s perfect record as Vissel’s new head coach with the 4-3 victory.
Elsewhere on Saturday, league leaders Kawasaki Frontale eke out a 1-0 win over Vegalta Sendai at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium to cement themselves further in the J1 summit, while Nagoya Grampus leapfrogged Cerezo Osaka in the J1 table with a 1-0 win over the men in pink at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium, with Mateus emerging as Nagoya’s hero with his last-minute goal.
1-0 was also the final scoreline at the Panasonic Stadium Suita, with Gamba Osaka beating FC Tokyo there, while another last-minute goal, this time from Koya Yuruki, ensured a 1-0 win for Urawa Red Diamonds away at Sagan Tosu. Takuro Kaneko was the hero for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Sapporo Atsubetsu Stadium, with his two goals completing the comeback as Consadole edged out bottom dwellers Shonan Bellmare 2-1, while at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira, Sanfrecce Hiroshima survived a late Shimizu S-Pulse fightback to emerge out as 3-2 winners.
Kashima Antlers gave out a clutch performance in the dying minutes of the match as they scored twice very late in the game to beat Yokohama FC 3-2 at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, while defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos gave Oita Trinita a 4-0 slapping at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Stadium.