CHIBA — Josh Kennedy and Keiji Tamada combined to halt Nagoya Grampus’ slide with a 2-0 win over JEF United Chiba, but there was no such joy at the top of the J. League table as all four leading teams lost on Wednesday night.
Grampus went into the match at Fukuda Denshi Arena in 13th place after consecutive defeats to Oita Trinita and Kawasaki Frontale, just weeks after a 3-0 win over Urawa Reds looked to have set Dragan Stojkovic’s inconsistent side moving in the right direction.
But goals in each half from Australian striker Kennedy — his fourth in five games — and Tamada put the brakes on Nagoya’s latest slump, on a night when it was left to the title contenders to leave their fans frustrated.
Kashima Antlers never recovered from a first-minute Yoshito Okubo strike as the league leaders went down 1-0 at Vissel Kobe, while a double from Ryoichi Maeda gave Jubilo Iwata a 2-1 win over second-place Kawasaki Frontale.
Albirex Niigata also fell 2-1 to Gamba Osaka, and Urawa Reds’ 4-1 mauling by Kashiwa Reysol — Reds’ fifth league defeat in a row — completed a miserable evening for the championship hopefuls.
Stojkovic, meanwhile, was thinking only of his own team’s performance.
“It’s a very important victory, you know why,” he said. “What I want to see from my team now is to continue in the same shape with the same determination.
“We dominated Oita but lost the game in one minute. Today my players understood how to keep the result — they didn’t give up and they kept their concentration right until the last second. Now I expect to continue with the same fighting spirit.”
There was more than a hint of luck about Nagoya’s opener as Kennedy connected weakly from a Yoshizumi Ogawa cross to give Ryo Kushino what should have been a routine save. The goalkeeper could only flap at the ball to send it straight back into Kennedy’s path, and the Australian did not need another invitation to put his side ahead.
Igor Burzanovic almost doubled Nagoya’s lead 10 minutes later as he looped a shot off the crossbar, but the new Montenegran signing from Red Star Belgrade wasted a far easier chance minutes later when he blasted against Kushino’s legs after Tamada had put him clear in front of goal.
Tamada eventually added to Nagoya’s tally in the 67th minute, however, when Ogawa found space to deliver a cross that the national team striker stooped to head past Kushino.
“When the two strikers score the goals it is very satisfying,” Stojkovic said. “I know that they can do it but they must try in every game with the same pace, the same power, the same determination. That is the job of a striker.”
Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse, Yokohama F. Marinos and Sanfrecce Hiroshima claimed 1-0 victories over Kyoto Sanga, Omiya Ardija and Oita Trinita, respectively, while Montedio Yamagata also won by the same margin against faltering FC Tokyo.