SAITAMA – Nagoya Grampus shrugged off a first-half red card for Igor Burzanovic to grab a 1-0 away win over Omiya Ardija on Saturday.
Montenegran striker Burzanovic picked up his second booking of the game after clattering into Naoki Ishihara in the 42nd minute at Nack5 Stadium, setting a daunting task for a Nagoya side looking to keep pace with the J. League leaders in the first full slate of games since the World Cup break.
But Josh Kennedy pulled the iron out of the fire as he notched the winner in the 76th minute, stooping low to meet a cross from national team center back Marcus Tulio Tanaka in unfamiliar territory rampaging down the wing.
“I think he’s done that once or twice before and everyone knows he’s a defender who likes to come forward,” Kennedy said of Tulio. “It just shows the quality he has got.”
Grampus dominated the first half, but misses by Kennedy and Naoshi Nakamura looked set to haunt them when Burzanovic saw red minutes before the interval and forced manager Dragan Stojkovic into a hasty change of plan.
“The red card killed the game,” Stojkovic said. “After the red card the game was not the same. We were in a very difficult situation, but I said to my players at halftime that we had to believe that we could win the game.
“It was very important to show our football intelligence, and the players did a very good job. We had 10 heroes on the pitch tonight.”
Omiya’s attempts to make the numerical advantage count ran into an inspired performance by Tulio, whose World Cup exertions made him doubtful to start the game, let alone complete the full 90 minutes.
“I talked to Tulio at lunchtime, and it was really 50-50,” Stojkovic said. “If he had started on the bench it wouldn’t have been a surprise, but I took full responsibility and told him he would play.
“I had a completely different plan for Tulio in the second half. After the red card, everything dropped in the river.”
Australian international Kennedy was also returning from South Africa having played twice in his country’s first-round exit, and the 194-cm striker was satisfied with his night’s work.
“For me it was the perfect start to come back to the J. League and take three points,” he said. “With a man down in these conditions it was tough. We had one chance and we took it, and we didn’t concede. It was a team effort.”
The result kept Grampus in third place in the league table, but Kashima Antlers took over the top spot from Shimizu S-Pulse with a 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale. South Korean defender Lee Jung Soo added to the two goals he scored for his country at the World Cup with a 78th-minute winner at Kashima Stadium.
S-Pulse could only manage a scoreless draw with local rival Jubilo Iwata, while Montedio Yamagata beat Vegalta Sendai 3-1. FC Tokyo blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Vissel Kobe, while in the night’s other game Albirex Niigata and Cerezo Osaka drew 1-1.