KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Kashiwa Reysol wrested leadership of the J. League away from Yokohama F. Marinos with a 2-0 win on Saturday night, just two days after the shock death of former Marinos defender Naoki Matsuda.
Marinos went into the match at Hitachi Stadium still reeling from the news that Matsuda, who spent 16 seasons with the Yokohama club, had died at the age of 34 two days after collapsing while training with his JFL team Matsumoto Yamaga.
But with first place in the table up for grabs, Kashiwa took an eighth-minute lead through Leandro Domingues and added another in the second half through Jorge Wagner to leapfrog Marinos after surrendering top spot to the Yokohama side on July 17.
“We went into this game with a huge desire to win, but you need more than just desire,” said Marinos defender Yuzo Kurihara. “We need to go back to the training ground and improve. Reysol were too strong tonight.”
Despite the obvious emotional impact of the week’s events, Marinos manager Kazushi Kimura refused to look for excuses.
“We didn’t play so badly, but winning games hinges on whether or not you take your chances,” he said. “I told the players that when they stepped out onto the pitch, it was up to them to perform. We can’t use what happened as an excuse.”
Every Yokohama player emerged for the prematch warmup wearing Matsuda’s No. 3 shirt as fans of both sides held banners of support, and a moment’s silence was impeccably observed before the action got under way.
“He was a player who contributed so much to this club,” said Kurihara of Matsuda. “We wanted to do something to show our appreciation.”
But it was not long before the home side took the lead, as Akihiro Hyodo laid the ball off for Leandro to drill a low shot from the edge of the box that Marinos goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura was too late to reach.
A foul on Leandro midway through the first half gave the Brazilian the chance to double his tally for the evening, but Iikura had learned his lesson and did well to punch the stinging free kick away.
Yokohama’s attempts to unpick Kashiwa’s defensive lock met with little success as the first half drew to a close, and the second-half arrival of 193-cm substitute striker Kim Kun Hoan gave Kashiwa more to think about as Marinos threw everything in search of an equalizer.
But the sucker punch came with a break forward that found Wagner free on the left to smash the ball home, and a late Shunsuke Nakamura free kick off the post was the best response Marinos could muster.
“It was as difficult a game as we expected against a team with a lot of quality and motivation to do well,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho. “This is just one win, but we have to make sure that we don’t slip up from here on and hold onto the position we have.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Hiroshi Kiyotake celebrated his first national team callup with a goal in Cerezo Osaka’s 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale, Kashima Antlers heaped more misery on relegation-threatened Montedio Yamagata with a 3-1 victory, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima did likewise to Ventforet Kofu, winning 2-0.
Yoshito Okubo struck in injury time to give Vissel Kobe a 3-2 win over Urawa Reds, while Albirex Niigata beat Shimizu S-Pulse 4-0.