All good things must come to an end, Kawasaki Frontale’s impervious start to the season included. Having gone unbeaten for their first 35 matches across four competitions, the defending J.League 1 champions finally came unstuck on Wednesday’s J1 Matchweek 26 action. And the one inflicting Kawasaki’s first defeat of the season? It wasn’t domestic rivals Yokohama F. Marinos or Vissel Kobe and it wasn’t regional forces Beijing Guoan or Daegu FC. No, it was unfancied, newly-promoted Avispa Fukuoka who dealt Kawasaki their first defeat of the season.
Belgian winger Jordy Croux’s unbelievable curling strike from the edge of the Kawasaki penalty area in the 66th minute ended up settling the tie at the Best Denki Stadium, a “Goal of the Season” candidate that undoes the defending champions’ unbeaten start to the season.
And to make the win even sweeter for the Wasps, Avispa won against a Kawasaki side fielding the likes of Leandro Damiao, Akihiro Ienaga, Reo Hatate, and Jung Sung-ryong. Basically, a full-strength Kawasaki team.
Having lost talisman Kaoru Mitoma to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, Kawasaki’s defeat on Wednesday did not dislodge them from their seat in the J1 summit. However, the men from Kanagawa Prefecture found themselves in a vulnerable position as Yokohama’s ominous surge up the J1 table continues with Kevin Muscat’s men comfortably seeing off Sagan Tosu 4-0 on the same day. The huge win allowed 2nd placed Yokohama to close the gap between themselves and Kawasaki to just one point.
The loss of a player as influential as Mitoma meant that Kawasaki’s rivals are relishing the opportunity to pick on them when they’re the weakest. Other than Yokohama, the likes of Vissel and Nagoya Grampus would be more than eager to bridge the gap between themselves and Kawasaki considering that the J1 leaders are not as ominous as before.
Meanwhile, defending AFC Champions League champions Ulsan Hyundai will be licking their lips at the weakened Kawasaki should Toru Oniki’s men fail to find an adequate replacement for Mitoma when their round of 16 tie rolls around next month.