East Asia Japan

Surprise Packages Machida Kept Leading the Way as Marinos Were Thrashed

A solitary first half goal from Hokuto Shimoda was enough for Machida Zelvia to see-off Nagoya Grampus 1-0 on Saturday, ensuring that the newly-promoted side would remain top of the J.League 1 table, while Gamba Osaka consolidate themselves in 3rd place courtesy of a 4-0 thrashing of Yokohama F. Marinos.

Saturday’s match at the Machida GION Stadium in western Tokyo marks the last appearance of young winger Yu Hirakawa, who is currently being linked with a move overseas to Championship side Bristol City. Fittingly, the Olympics-bound Hirakawa assisted former Oita Trinia captain Shimoda with the winning goal.

Scored in the 30th minute, the goal was a result of a defensive error from Nagoya, with Keiya Shiihashi fluffing his clearance and Tojiro Kubo missing his header, thus allowing Hirakawa to snatch the ball before making his way down the left flank. Finding Shimoda free, Hirakawa laid the ball off towards the midfielder, who skipped his way through two Nagoya defenders before lashing the ball past Nagoya goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak.

Shimoda was indeed impressive throughout the match and despite Nagoya piling on the pressure for the equalizer, the former Oita Trinita player almost made it 2-0 when he once again got the better of Langerak in the 80th minute. Unfortunately for Shimoda, the goal was chalked off after Oh Se-hun was adjudged to have fouled his opponent in the buildup.

Embarking on their debut J1 campaign, Machida had turned heads aplenty with a series of impressive performances that saw them top the league table after 22 matches. Their win against Nagoya marked Machida’s fifth consecutive game unbeaten, and Go Kuroda’s charges are currently one point ahead of second-placed perennial giants Kashima Antlers, who beat last-placed Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on the same day.

Kashima couldn’t rest easy, however, as Gamba are breathing down their necks in third place with an inferior goal difference. Goals from Juan Alano, Dawhan, a Takashi Usami penalty, and Issam Jebail helped Gamba to a dominant 4-0 win over Harry Kewell’s Yokohama F. Marinos, with the 2022 champions languishing in 13th place thanks to their fourth consecutive defeat.