J.League 1 basement dwellers Shonan Bellmare managed to stun Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 in their Matchweek 23 encounter at the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka on Sunday. Kenya international Michael Olunga continued his rich scoring form by bagging himself his 22nd goal of the season for Kashiwa, however a late goal from Naoki Ishihara meant that Shonan managed to end a wretched run of form that saw them fail to win any of their previous six matches.
Matchweek 23 kicked-off on Saturday, with Cerezo Osaka posting a huge 4-1 win over defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos at the Nagai Stadium in a match that saw both Hiroaki Okuno and Yuya Toyokawa scoring braces for the hosts. However, a good bulk of the week’s action occur on Sunday, with Shonan’s showdown with Kashiwa being one of the eight matches being played out across the day.
Playing at the comforts of their home in Hiratsuka, Shonan drew first blood in the 4th minute through Takuya Okamoto, taking advantage of an Akimi Barada pass to fire home the opener from a very tight angle. However, Kashiwa struck back in the 22nd minute, with Olunga scoring league goal number 22 with a bullet of a header from a Cristiano corner that went past Shonan goalie Kosei Tani.
2019 J.League 2 champions Kashiwa then took the lead in the 54th minute, after Ataru Esaka had passed the ball short towards substitute Yuta Kamiya inside the Shonan penalty box, allowing Kamiya to slot the ball past an outstretched Tani.
However, in the 78th minute, Shonan substitute Temma Matsuda drew the scoreline level with a blistering strike that left Kashiwa goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu utterly helpless, taking good advantage of a headed pass given to him by Tarik Elyounoussi. And only three minutes after Temma’s equalizer, Shonan clinched the winner as Okamoto turned from scorer to provider, sending a long lobbed ball forward towards Ishihara, who had the simple job of smashing the ball into the Kashiwa goal with a diving header. 3-2 Shonan and that was the scoreline as the referee blew the final whistle.
Shonan’s third win of the season was not enough to lift them off last place in the J1 table, but it was enough to at least reduce the gap between them and second-from-bottom Vegalta Sendai to just one point. Vegalta were in a middle of a wretched patch of form themselves, losing 6-0 away at Urawa Red Diamonds to extend their winless run to a staggering 13 matches.
Shimizu S-Pulse almost nicked themselves a win at the IAI Nihondaira Stadium, however an 85th minute equalizer from Daichi Hayashi meant that they were forced to a 1-1 draw by Sagan Tosu. The draw meant that the men in orange from Shizuoka Prefecture moved up to 16th place in the J1 table, equal on points with 17th placed Vegalta but with a better goal difference.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo marked their return to the Sapporo Dome with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Kashima Antlers, while Yokohama FC managed to stun FC Tokyo 1-0 at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Stadium. A 75th minute goal from Patric condemned Oita Trinita to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Gamba Osaka, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima managed to extend Vissel Kobe’s winless run to 3 matches with a 2-1 win at the Hiroshima Big Arch.
Last but not least, J1 leaders Kawasaki Frontale made easy work of Nagoya Grampus at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium with a crushing 3-0 win. Nagoya, who inflicted Kawasaki’s only J1 defeat so far this season in their first encounter, were utterly shred to pieces in the return match as a brace from Jesiel and a Kaoru Mitoma goal ensured that Kawasaki will be staying at the J1 summit for a little bit longer.