KAWASAKI — Kyoto Sanga launched an astonishing smash-and-grab raid on Kawasaki Frontale to claim a 1-0 win at Todoroki Stadium on Saturday evening.
Kawasaki dominated the match, peppering the Kyoto goal without ever managing to land a decisive blow.
Frontale strikers Juninho and Chong Tese were both guilty of wasting a string of chances, and Kyoto’s former national team forward Atsushi Yanagisawa showed them how to do it with a late breakaway goal to give his side three unlikely points.
Kawasaki’s profligacy in front of goal seems all the more surprising given the formidable array of attacking talent the club had assembled going into the new season.
But with striker Hulk leaving the club for Tokyo Verdy, manager Takashi Sekizuka needs his front line to start firing soon if Frontale’s title rivals are not to disappear over the horizon.
Kyoto, on the other hand, has made a solid start after promotion from the second division, and manager Hisahi Kato was happy with the way his team picked up its first away win of the season.
“The result was only 1-0 but the important thing was to get the three points,” he said.
“The players showed great spirit. This was Sanga football — systematic in defense, keeping it simple and trying to get in behind them.”
Kato also paid tribute to Yanagisawa, surplus to requirements at champions Kashima Antlers but already making a big impact in his new surroundings.
“Yanagisawa is extremely dedicated in practice as well as in games,” he said.
“His condition is very good right now, and he is very sharp. He is a good influence on the players around him.
“He fits in very smoothly, but what we want most from him is goals, and he scored a difficult one today. He showed what an excellent player he is.”
Juninho and Chong had their work cut out trying to get past the bulk of Sidiclei in the Kyoto defense, who was casting a large shadow over Frontale’s attempts to break through.
Kengo Nakamura tried a more direct route in the 20th minute, bursting through a crowd of Sanga defenders before Ataliba stopped him in his tracks with a cynical lunge.
Masahiro Ohashi rattled the crossbar with the resulting free kick, and Chong and Satoru Yamagishi both went close in quick succession as Kawasaki began to turn the screw.
Daigo Watanabe thumped the woodwork as Kyoto showed some attacking verve of its own, but most of the running was coming from the home team.
Frontale maintained the pace as the second-half began, but with Sanga defending in greater numbers, Juninho and Chong were left to feed on scraps.
Nakamura stung goalkeeper Naohito Hirai’s hands with a fierce drive in the 57th minute before Chong almost managed to squeeze a shot inside the near post minutes later, but still Kawasaki could not find the net.
The frustration was beginning to show, and a cleverly worked move by Ohashi, Yamagishi and Chong broke down when Hiroyuki Taniguchi snatched at his shot to send the ball spinning into the stands.
Goalkeeper Hirai was not making Kyoto’s rear-guard battle any easier by repeatedly rushing out of his box, and Juninho almost punished the 29-year-old as he slalomed past the ‘keeper only to miss from a wide angle.
Hirai made up for his mistake with a great save from Chong minutes later, before setting the visitors off on a swift counterattack that ended with Yanagisawa cooly slotting the ball into the net for a goal very much against the run of play.
Striker Satoshi Kukino replaced Yamagishi as a shell-shocked Frontale attempted to hit back, but Sanga’s defense, superbly marshaled by veterans Sidiclei and Ryuzo Morioka, held firm to see out the win.
KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) High-flying Kashima Antlers warmed up for Wednesday’s crunch Asian Champions League meeting with Beijing Guoan in style with a 4-1 demolition of struggling JEF United Chiba on Saturday.
Yuzo Tashiro scored for the second game in a row to break the deadlock on 17 minutes and Marquinhos, Ryuta Sasaki and Shinzo Koroki were also on target as the leaders maintained their flawless start to the J. League season.
Elsewhere, Frode Johnsen and Keita Sugimoto both scored to keep Nagoya Grampus in second in the table with a 2-0 win at home to Yokohama F. Marinos while Gamba Osaka moved into third on 10 points after beating Shimizu S-Pulse by the same score.
Resurgent Urawa Reds came from behind to beat Jubilo Iwata, Marcus Tulio Tanaka heading the winner 10 minutes from time, and along with Yokohama have nine points from five games.