KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Late heroics from Masakatsu Sawa enabled Kashiwa Reysol to cling on to top spot with a dramatic 1-0 win over visiting Vegalta Sendai on Saturday night.
Sendai looked all set for a hard-earned draw, a result that would have seen Kashiwa surrender pole position to Yokohama F. Marinos, who won 2-1 at Jubilo Iwata.
But Hitachi Stadium erupted when Sawa scored his first professional goal, heading in Koki Mizuno’s rightwing cross in the fourth minute of injury time.
“This was a very tough game and Sendai obviously did their homework, but we got the result through sheer perseverance,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho.
“The most important thing was to rebound after losing our last game. The players did exactly that and this is a massive result for us.”
Kashiwa came into the match on the back of a humiliating 5-0 defeat at Cerezo Osaka and it very nearly fell behind on 25 minutes when Ryang Yong Gi had a shot deflected just wide of the post.
The home side had another let-off when Atsushi Yanagisawa was centimeters away from connecting with a Toshihiro Matsushita cross, just after Takuto Hayashi had pulled off a smart save to keep out Sawa’s header at the other end.
Kashiwa upped the pace in the second half and substitute Mizuno saw a speculative effort hit the crossbar with 10 minutes left before Sawa snatched victory.
“We came into this big game knowing victory could have put us level with Kashiwa on points and we are gutted about the result. Conceding at that stage of the game killed us,” said Sendai boss Makoto Teguramori.
“We could not take any points today but the players showed a lot of heart and deserved more. We just have to try and regroup and turn things around,” he said.
Shunsuke Nakamura’s 51st-minute penalty earned Yokohama victory while Kawasaki Frontale held off a late fightback from Avispa Fukuoka to win 3-2 and move third.
Genki Omae’s fourth goal of the season earned Shimizu S-Pulse a 2-1 win at Ventforet Kofu while Naoshi Nakamura’s late goal gave champions Nagoya Grampus a 1-0 win at Vissel Kobe.
Morimoto on the move
Japan striker Takayuki Morimoto is on the verge of transferring from Catania to Novara, which was recently promoted to Italy’s topflight Serie A, Italian media reported Friday.
The 23-year-old Morimoto has been at Catania since 2006 when he made the leap from Tokyo Verdy, but has indicated that he wants out after being limited to 12 appearances this past season.