KAWASAKI – Kawasaki Frontale squandered a fresh opportunity to make up significant ground on runaway leaders Kashima Antlers on Sunday after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.
Kashima suffered arguably the biggest shock of the season with a 3-1 defeat at unfashionable Omiya Ardija on Saturday, but Frontale were unable to take full advantage and looked to be heading for defeat until defender Hiroki Ito rose to head the equalizer in injury time.
With 10 rounds left to play, Kawasaki trails Antlers by seven points, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and S-Pulse another three points off the pace.
“It was not a performance we can be satisfied with,” said Ito. “We wanted at the very least to take a point. The goal came late but I guess a draw will have to do.”
Juninho screwed wide as Kawasaki threatened to take the lead after less than a minute, but first-half chances were at a premium on a rain-slick surface at Todoroki Stadium.
Shimizu should have broken the deadlock on the hour mark, Takuma Edamura contriving to scoop over the bar from close range after Naoaki Aoyama had got behind Kawasaki’s defense.
However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock on 78 minutes. Substitute Marcos Paulo dispossessed Kengo Nakamura to feed Daisuke Ichikawa, and the former Japan international sent in a rightwing cross for Keisuke Iwashita to head in at the far post.
Renatinho and Juninho both went close and Chong Tese hit the post as Kawasaki frantically went in search of an equalizer, which finally arrived when Ito rose to meet Nakamura’s free kick.
“We haven’t given up on the league title yet, and we just have to keep going,” said Ito, whose side faces Kashima in its next league match.
Hiroshima climbed into third place after Hisato Sato struck nine minutes from time with his 11th goal of the campaign to earn a 2-1 win at Montedio Yamagata.
In the day’s other fixture, Kashiwa Reysol held on to grind out a 0-0 draw at home to Kyoto Sanga after having Kota Sugiyama sent off at the start of the second half.
The J. League heads into an international break before top-flight action resumes on Sept. 12.