East Asia Japan

Reds Stunned by Yamashita Double

Sagan Tosu managed to get themselves all three points in their 2021 J.League 1 Matchweek 2 encounter with Urawa Red Diamonds on Saturday. Playing in front of their home support at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, Kim Myung-hwi’s Tosu managed to produce a vintage second half display to down Urawa 2-0, thanks to a brace from Keita Yamashita.

With talismanic striker Shinzo Koroki still out of the picture as he’s recovering from an injury, Urawa head coach Ricardo Rodriguez still managed to deploy a decent-looking squad, with the usual suspects in Shusaku Nishikawa, Tomoya Ugajin, Tomoaki Makino, Ryosuke Yamanaka, Yuki Abe, and Kenyu Sugimoto all present in the starting lineup. Tosu, on the other hand, had Park Iru-gyu manning the sticks and a duet of Yamashita and Daichi Hayashi leading the attacking lines.

The first half was quite uneventful, with a penalty awarded for Tosu being changed into a free-kick by the video assistant referee (VAR) being the only incident of note from the first 45 minutes. Urawa were quite sluggish throughout the first half, with a 17th minute header from Makino being the Saitama Prefecture-based side’s best chance of the period.

Tosu, on the other hand, had plenty of chances of their own throughout the first half, with Yamashita, Yuta Higuchi, and Tomoya Koyamatsu threatening Nishikawa’s goal during that time.

The hosts continued from where they left off in the second half as they pressed Urawa once again, with Hayashi eliciting a save from Nishikawa just four minutes into the second stanza.

However, there was no denying Tosu in the 62nd minute. Nishikawa had deflected a shot from Fuchi Honda, however the ball wasn’t cleared far enough and soon it fell into the possession of Yamashita. As Nishikawa was still gathering his bearings after diving in to deny Honda, Yamashita took the opportunity to poke the ball from point-blank range into the Urawa goal, giving Tosu the lead.

Urawa almost equalized in the 76th minute, with Koya Yuruki managing to bait goalkeeper Park off his post before laying the ball towards Sugimoto, however a Tosu defender managed to clear Sugimoto’s shot off the line to preserve his side’s clean sheet.

Tosu’s second goal, scored in the 81st minute, was less scrappy than their first. Higuchi swung in a cross into the Urawa penalty area that was met with a powerful header from Yamashita, with the ball piercing its way into Nishikawa’s net to settle the game for Tosu.

The 2-0 scoreline for the hosts was unchanged all the way into full-time, with Tosu etching a vital win that could potentially help their cause as they embark in what could be a very long and tough season.

Saturday’s other J1 results saw Tosu’s fellow Kyushu sides etching points in Matchweek 2. Oita Trinita managed to saw off Yokohama FC 2-1 at the NHK Mitsuzawa Spring Stadium, while a last-gasp equalizer from Emil Salomonsson meant that Avispa Fukuoka managed to force Shimizu S-Pulse to a 2-2 draw at the Best Denki Stadium.

Defending champions Kawasaki Frontale managed to retain their hold onto top spot with a 5-1 demolition job away at Vegalta Sendai, while both Tokushima Vortis and Vissel Kobe shared the points in a 1-1 draw at the Pocari Sweat Stadium. Vissel’s Kansai rivals Cerezo Osaka succumbed to another 3-2 defeat on Saturday, this time to FC Tokyo away at the Ajinomoto Stadium. The men in pink previously suffered a 3-2 reverse at the hands of Kawasaki during the midweek.

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo were snuffed out by Nagoya Grampus 1-0 at the Toyota Stadium, while rounding off Saturday’s action was Kashiwa Reysol’s 2-1 home win over Shonan Bellmare.

Sunday’s only Matchweek 2 game, between Yokohama F. Marinos and Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the Nissan Stadium, ended in an epic 3-3 draw with Daizen Maeda bagging himself a brace for Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama side.

With 5 players now down with COVID-19, Gamba Osaka had their Matchweek 2 encounter against Kashima Antlers postponed with a rescheduled date to be announced soon. This was Gamba’s second consecutive postponed match after their midweek J1 action away at Nagoya Grampus was called off due to COVID cases within the Gamba camp.