SENDAI – In-form Australian international striker Josh Kennedy hit a brace as Nagoya Grampus beat Vegalta Sendai 2-1 away on Sunday to move within two points of J. League leaders Shimizu S-Pulse.
Kennedy opened the scoring with a twice-taken penalty at Yurtec Stadium and snatched the points for the visitors with a late header shortly after Sendai had leveled through Brazilian substitute Fernandinho.
“It was a very tough game today. The weather was quite hot and Sendai made it very difficult for us so I think we deserved to get the points and it was a good team effort from everyone,” said Kennedy.
Grampus moved to 22 points from 11 games, two behind S-Pulse, who suffered their first defeat of the season after going down 2-0 at home to Albirex Niigata on Saturday.
Kennedy dusted himself off after being bundled over by Sendai’s Brazilian defender Elizeu and sent Takuto Hayashi the wrong way from the spot.
Referee Masayoshi Okada ordered the penalty be retaken after spotting encroachment into the area but the towering forward kept his cool to bury the ball in the same spot on 38 minutes.
Sendai almost hit back two minutes before the break but Kunimitsu Sekiguchi saw his low drive come back off the post.
Sendai finally made the breakthrough six minutes from time when Fernandinho rattled a shot in off the post, but Kennedy secured in the 89th minute, climbing to meet Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s cross for his seventh goal of the campaign.
“The good mentality and the belief until the end gave us the victory and three points,” said Nagoya manager Dragan Stojkovic. “The game was very good and very hard, for both teams. Vegalta and Grampus played very good football today.”
In Sunday’s other match, FC Tokyo beat Montedio Yamagata 3-0 away.