KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Junya Tanaka scored two first-half goals and Leandro Domingues added another to extend Kashiwa Reysol’s lead at the top of the J. League to three points with a 3-0 win over Vissel Kobe on Saturday.
Vissel went into the match at Hitachi Stadium on the back of three straight wins, but a brace from Tanaka inside the space of three minutes soon took the wind out of their sails and put last season’s second-division champions firmly in the driving seat.
A third from Leandro Domingues in the 73rd minute made the game safe, giving Kashiwa 19 points from eight matches as the Chiba side continues to confound expectations in its first season back in the top flight.
“The results we have been getting are a result of our preparation,” said manager Nelsinho. “We have carried on from what we were doing last year, and that gives us a strong foundation to build on.
“In training the players never doubt what we are doing, and that is the key. Maybe other people are surprised at our results, but that’s not the case for anyone at this club.”
Both teams took time to find their rhythm, but after some nervy moments Kashiwa took the lead in the 21st minute. Leandro Domingues split the Vissel defense with a perfectly weighted pass into the box, and Tanaka took a touch before rifling the ball home.
It was not long before the 23-year-old had his second. Ryoichi Kurosawa switched the play with a brilliant cross-field ball to the left, and Tanaka left goalkeeper Kenta Tokushige clutching at thin air with a ferocious shot from the edge of the box.
“We expected them to come at us, and the players dealt with this by defending well, waiting for mistakes and hitting them on the counter,” said Nelsinho. “Then we found our rhythm and got the two goals.
“We knew we were playing against a team that had won its last three games, and I told the players to go back out for the second half with the same attitude. We knew we couldn’t just sit on a two-goal lead, and we were determined to get a third or a fourth.”
It was the visitors who almost started the second half with a goal, however, with Vissel pressure almost forcing Reysol defender Naoya Kondo to steer the ball into his own net.
But it took a scrambled clearance from Kunie Kitamoto to deny Tanaka his hat trick at the other end, and 10 minutes later Kashiwa put the result beyond doubt. Hideaki Kitajima broke into space down the left, and the striker squared the ball for Leandro Domingues striding through the middle to sweep home.
Vissel substitute Popo then earned a straight red card for a meaty 86th-minute challenge on Tatsuya Masushima, leaving manager Masahiro Wada to pick the bones out of a miserbale afternoon for the visitors.
“We were playing against the team at the top of the league today,” Wada said. “For the first 15 minutes we played at a good tempo and created some chances, and if we had managed to score from one of them it might have been a different story.
“But after Kashiwa scored they were able to play at their own pace, and we had trouble putting together moves on the slippy pitch. Games like this happen, and the important thing now is for the players to put it behind them.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Vegalta Sendai and Yokohama F. Marinos — second and third in the table, respectively, at the start of the day — drew 1-1, while struggling Urawa Reds were pegged back from a first-half lead to finish 1-1 against Albirex Niigata.
The Shizuoka derby between Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata finished 0-0, and Ventforet Kofu drew 1-1 with Montedio Yamagata.