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Late goal gives Frontale triumph over FC Tokyo

by Andrew Mckirdy

An injury-time piledriver from Hiroyuki Taniguchi moved Kawasaki Frontale into second place in the J. League with a last-gasp 2-1 win over FC Tokyo on Saturday night.

Naohiro Ishikawa moved level with Gamba Osaka’s Leandro at the top of the scoring chart as he notched his 11th of the season at Todoroki Stadium, giving Tokyo a 38th-minute lead in a first half comfortably controlled by the visitors.

But Juninho headed in the equalizer 10 minutes after the interval as the tide began to turn in Frontale’s favor, before Taniguchi thumped a shot through goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda’s legs to grab the club’s second dramatic turnaround this week after Wednesday’s Nabisco Cup win over Kashima Antlers.

Saturday’s result shaved Antlers’ lead at the top of the league down to eight points after Sanfrecce Hiroshima ended the defending champions’ record unbeaten run at 17 games with a 1-0 win at the Big Arch. Albirex Niigata drew 0-0 with Omiya Ardija to drop to third.

Tokyo would have leapfrogged Frontale with a victory, and Kawasaki manager Takashi Sekizuka was in no doubt as to the result’s significance after his team had failed to win any of its last four league games.

“It was very satisfying today to play such a good game,” he said. “This was a very important game for the title race, and that’s three big points to take from a team like FC Tokyo.”

Tokyo manager Hiroshi Jofuku also knew what was at stake, but conceded his team did not have the quality to take it.

“It was a game we had to win,” he said. “In order to join the title race — in the real meaning of the word — we still need to take and make more big chances. We played well in the first half but the judgment and accuracy wasn’t there in the final passing.”

Naotake Hanyu was unlucky not to put the visitors ahead as Tokyo took the game to Frontale in an open first half, but Ishikawa eventually made the breakthrough after Yuto Nagatomo had carved the Kawasaki defense wide open.

The left back burst through two defenders before pinging a low cross into the center, and Ishikawa needed only the slightest touch to divert it into the net for the opener.

But Juninho connected with a Mori cross for the equalizer as Frontale came out fighting in the second half, and Taniguchi forced an excellent save from Gonda to spark Frontale into a period of total dominance.

Takuro Yajima wasted chances to turn that superiority into goals, but Taniguchi moved in for the kill with the clock fast running down and Tokyo fast running out of gas.

“We just didn’t have the backup players in the end, and we still have issues with the weakness of our bench,” Jofuku said. “For us the lack of useful fresh legs was a big problem.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Oita Trinita grabbed their third win of the season in equally dramatic style with two goals in the dying minutes to beat Nagoya Grampus 2-1, but there was no such fairy tale for new JEF United Chiba manager Atsuhiko Ejiri as his team’s comeback fell just short in a 3-2 loss to Jubilo Iwata.

Yokohama F. Marinos trounced Kyoto Sanga 3-0 in the day’s other game.