YOKOHAMA – J. League leader Kashiwa Reysol gave another example of their growing championship credentials with a comfortable 2-0 win over Yokohama F.Marinos on Saturday.
Reysol went into the match with a three-point lead at the top of the table after six wins and a draw from eight games, and a 26th-minute opener from Junya Tanaka suggested the Chiba side’s blistering start to the season was set to continue at Nissan Stadium.
Another first-half goal from Hideaki Kitajima consolidated Kashiwa’s dominance, and even though Marinos woke up after the interval it was not enough to stop a Reysol side that is beginning to look like genuine contenders having won the second- division title with ease last season.
“We are only a third of the way through the season, and it’s too early to talk like that because anything can happen,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho.
“We have to take each game as it comes and treat each game as if we are challenging for the title. At the moment our only focus is on our next game against Jubilo Iwata.”
But while Nelsinho is maintaining a cool front, his players are beginning to grow in confidence.
“We’re in first place after coming up from winning the second division, and that is great motivation for us,” said Tanaka, who scored his third goal in two league games. “It’s up to us to keep the pace going. We’ve only played nine games but we’ll keep giving it all we’ve got.”
Kashiwa did most of the early running as the league leader took the game to the home side, and its hard work was rewarded when Tanaka opened the scoring midway through the first half. The ball spilled loose as Kitajima went in to challenge Marinos goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura, and Tanaka was waiting to slam it home.
“A lot of teams are playing defensively, which makes it difficult to score,” said the 23-year-old. “So for me to be scoring goals is a great experience. Hopefully it will continue.”
Reysol continued to press, and just over 10 minutes later Kitajima doubled the lead. Right-back Hiroki Sakai pushed up on the overlap, and his cross found the veteran striker as he stooped to head the ball past Iikura.
“I hadn’t scored for a while, and I was worried that Nelsinho might change things,” said Kitajima. “It feels good to be on the scoresheet again.”
Masashi Oguro went close to pulling one back on the stroke of halftime, but Kashiwa’s stifling defense allowed Marinos few opportunities after the break and the best chances continued to fall for Reysol. Kitajima failed to convert the pick of them when he found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but the striker is satisfied with his team’s progress nonetheless.
“We’ve only played nine games and there’s a long way to go yet, but the position we’re in is not a huge surprise for us,” he said. “We are taking each game as it comes, and if we can keep winning games then it all adds up.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Hisato Sato scored in the 89th minute to give Sanfrecce Hiroshima a 1-0 win away to Albirex Niigata, while Keiji Tamada also struck late as Nagoya Grampus beat Jubilo 1-0.
Cerezo Osaka got their first win of the season, 3-0 over pointless Avispa Fukuoka, while struggling Kashima Antlers got back on track with a 2-0 win over Montedio Yamagata.
Kawasaki Frontale drew 2-2 with Ventforet Kofu and Vegalta Sendai drew 1-1 with Vissel Kobe, while in the day’s late games Omiya Ardija and Urawa Reds settled for a 2-2 draw and Gamba Osaka and Shimizu S-Pulse also ended 2-2.