Atsushi Yanagisawa stole Masashi Oguro’s thunder with a first-half winner as Kyoto Sanga ground out a precious 1-0 victory away to Tokyo Verdy on Saturday.
Oguro made his much-anticipated Verdy debut after returning to Japan from a disappointing two-and-a-half seasons in Europe, but it was former Japan teammate Yanagisawa who grabbed the headlines with a well-taken finish in the 31st minute.
Kyoto’s first win in four matches lifted it away from the danger zone while the day’s upset came at the other end of the table as leaders Urawa Reds were condemned to a 2-0 defeat away to Oita Trinita.
Goals from Shunsuke Maeda and journeyman Ueslei did the damage at Kyushu Oil Dome, but despite the defeat Urawa remains top of the table on goal difference ahead of Nagoya Grampus, which beat Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 at home courtesy of Frode Johnsen’s eighth goal of the season.
At Ajinomoto Stadium, Verdy made a bright start with Hiroki Kawano testing Yuichi Mizutani with a shot on the turn, but Yanagisawa made a great run to collect Fernandinho’s pass and kept his head to break the deadlock with a thumping shot.
With Verdy chasing the game, Oguro, who failed to find the net in Italy’s Serie A after joining Torino from French club Grenoble in 2006, came on for the ineffective Kazuki Hiramoto in the 64th minute.
Oguro looked sharp for a player who has not seen competitive action since January but it was Kyoto that was the more threatening, and it was only the woodwork that prevented Fernandinho from scoring twice in the last 15 minutes.
“I don’t really feel like (physically) I have had such a long blank period,” said Oguro. “I think it’s just a case of timing my runs better and getting used to linking up with my new teammates.”
Kyoto manager Hisashi Kato was delighted to get a win he felt his team’s recent performances have been worthy of.
“We weren’t able to win any of our three games after the J. League resumed after the break (for national team games) but we didn’t play that badly and I think we are gradually starting to click,” said Kato.
“I told the players if they believe in themselves the results will follow, and I think we were very well organized and focused throughout the 90 minutes today.”
In other games, Gamba Osaka moved fourth after Brazilian duo Bare and Lucas were both on target in a 2-1 win at home to Kawasaki Frontale, while Keisuke Kurihara’s late header gave Vissel Kobe a 1-0 win at Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata won 2-1 at Omiya Ardija.
Reigning champions Kashima Antlers could return to the top of the table for the first time since April if they avoid defeat at home to FC Tokyo on Sunday. JEF United Chiba meets fellow struggler Consadole Sapporo and Yokohama F. Marinos take on Albirex Niigata in Sunday’s other matches.