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Reysol display mettle, championship drive

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Kashiwa Reysol came from behind to refuel their title ambitions with a feisty 2-1 win over defending J. League champions Nagoya Grampus on Saturday.

Kashiwa playmaker Leandro Domingues had to be stretchered off the pitch at Hitachi Stadium after a 13th-minute challenge from Marcus Tulio Tanaka, and with the Brazilian off the pitch receiving treatment, Keiji Tamada stepped up to put Grampus in front with a free kick from the edge of the box.

But Junya Tanaka leveled the score as Reysol came roaring back in the second half, and minutes after Grampus manager Dragan Stojkovic had been sent from the dugout for reacting angrily to the goal, substitute Masakatsu Sawa pounced on a loose ball to complete the turnaround and propel Kashiwa past Nagoya into third place in the table.

“We have been preparing for the last 10 days for a game against high-quality opponents, and tonight we performed brilliantly in terms of spirit, tactics and technique, from the first whistle to the last,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho.

“We conceded from a set piece and we had to bring off Leandro because of an accident, but it didn’t knock us out of our rhythm. I told the players that they had to give a good performance, and it is surprising just how well they did that.”

Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 2-0 to maintain first place three points ahead of Kashiwa and Yokohama F. Marinos — 1-0 winners over Avispa Fukuoka — but Nagoya slipped four points off the title pace into fourth in the table.

“We only played in the first half,” said Grampus assistant manager Bosko Djurovski. “We only played for 20 minutes today.

“We had a chance to make it 2-0 in the second half, but after that they pushed and then took the lead. We couldn’t find the solution to use the space on the counterattack, and finally we lost.”

He added: “They won the game, but there are still nine more games and nothing is finished. We will continue.”

Nagoya’s determination to deny Leandro time on the ball was clear from the sixth minute when striker Josh Kennedy dashed back deep into his own half to nick the ball off the Brazilian’s toe, but Leandro had to be carried off less than 10 minutes later after Tulio thudded into him chasing a loose ball forward.

With Leandro out of action, Grampus took advantage. Wataru Hashimoto fouled Kennedy on the edge of the box, and Tamada coolly placed his free kick inside Kazushige Kirihata’s post with an imperious stroke of his left boot.

Sawa came off the bench two minutes later with Leandro unable to continue, and Kashiwa began to create more and more chances as the first half wore on, with Jorge Wagner hitting a volley over the bar with the best of them.

Superb goalkeeping prevented goals for Igor Burzanovic and Sawa at both ends as the second half got under way, but Nagoya’s Yoshinari Takagi was powerless to keep out Tanaka’s equalizer in the 65th minute. Wagner prodded the ball over the Grampus defense, and Tanaka chested it down before firing across the goalkeeper and into the corner.

Stojkovic received his marching orders as he kicked a pitchside microphone in the scenes that followed, and the visitors’ misery was compounded three minutes later when Sawa put Kashiwa in front. Takagi spilled a cross from Hiroki Sakai, and the substitute happily snapped up the loose ball just meters in front of goal.

“For us this is a huge win,” said Nelsinho. “Especially as we are now moving into the last stretch of the season.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Ryuji Bando incredibly came off the bench to score a hat trick for the second time this season as Cerezo Osaka beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 5-4, while former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg came off the bench to make his Shimizu S-Pulse debut in a 2-1 derby defeat to Jubilo Iwata.

In the day’s other game, Kashima Antlers came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Albirex Niigata.