KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Kashiwa Reysol came from a goal down to beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1 and preserve their lead at the top of the J. League on Wednesday night.
Hisato Sato give Sanfrecce a seventh-minute lead at Hitachi Stadium only for Leandro Domingues to cancel it out with a direct free-kick three minutes later, and Reysol captain Hideaki Kitajima turned the tables early in the second half before substitute Masato Kudo embellished another impressive performance for last season’s second-division champions with a third in injury time.
A last-minute goal for second-place Yokohama F. Marinos in a 2-1 win over Montedio Yamagata keeps Reysol’s cushion at the top at one point, however, and Gamba Osaka’s 3-2 victory over Vissel Kobe — including a goal for Takashi Usami in his last match before joining Bayern Munich — means the Kansai side can still jump into first if it wins its two games in hand.
“It was as difficult as we expected against a very fast, technical side like Sanfrecce,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho. “We knew we would have to defend well if we wanted to beat them, but we were slack in the first half and we allowed them to get into their rhythm. In the second half we were much tighter and we got our second goal, and that drew them out in search of an equalizer and allowed us to get a third.
“To be able to win a difficult game like this and be in control is very good indeed. The players did their job well, and this was a very important win for us.”
Sato switched on the afterburners to give the visitors an early lead, latching onto a long pass from Toshihiro Aoyama and streaking past goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno, but there was barely time to celebrate before Reysol drew level.
Leandro went down under a heavy challenge on the edge of the box, and the Brazilian promptly dusted himself down before floating his free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net.
Naoya Kondo headed against the post and Kitajima hit the crossbar as Kashiwa swarmed forward, and another free-kick from practically the same position almost saw Leandro double his tally.
The Brazilian threatened to turn the game into a one-man show as he smashed a shot against the bar soon after, but Kitajima grabbed the spotlight 10 minutes into the second half with his sixth goal of the season. Shusaku Nishikawa saved from Masakatsu Sawa as Reysol caught the visitors’ defense napping, and Kitajima was on hand to bury the rebound.
Sanfrecce’s chances of getting back into the match were consistently thwarted by the agility of Sugeno, and all that was left was for Kudo to break away and put the icing on the cake with the final kick of the game.
“It was always going to be difficult playing away, and without our manager,” said Sanfrecce coach Akinobu Yokouchi, standing in for Mihailo Petrovic who was unable to travel after injuring his knee earlier in the week. “There were a lot of negatives going into the game, but the players ran and fought and gave a good account of themselves. We lost, but I’m happy with their effort.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Nagoya Grampus came through a heavyweight clash with Kashima Antlers with a 2-1 win, while Urawa Reds beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 for only their third win of the season.
Avispa Fukuoka also claimed a rare victory, 1-0 over Omiya Ardija, and Jubilo Iwata beat Cerezo Osaka 3-2 after twice falling behind. In the day’s other game, Vegalta Sendai and Shimizu S-Pulse drew 0-0.