KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – First-division debutants Sagan Tosu kept up their impressive start to the J. League season with a 1-1 draw away to reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday.
Sagan went into the match at Hitachi Stadium fifth in the table with a division-lowest record of three goals conceded from seven games, but an opener in first-half stoppage time from Kashiwa’s Hideaki Kitajima threatened to burst the Kyushu side’s bubble.
Teruaki Kobayashi pounced on a loose ball midway through the second half to rescue a point for Tosu, however, keeping Yoon Jong Hwang’s side firmly among the leading pack in its first-ever campaign in the top flight.
“It was hot today, and this was the first time we have played in an atmosphere like this,” said the South Korean, whose team now has 14 points from eight games. “We couldn’t adjust to that, and in the first half we lost our concentration and allowed them to score.
“But in the second half the players fought until the end, and we managed to pull a goal back. A lot of our fans made the trip to watch us here, and it was their support that pushed the players on until the final whistle.”
An temperature of 18.9 C was recorded for the game, but with the pitch in the full glare of the sun for 90 minutes, the reality was almost certainly different.
“Both teams had to deal with it, so it was the same for everyone,” said Tosu striker Yohei Toyoda. “I don’t think it made the difference.”
Leandro Domingues twice went close to breaking the deadlock as Kashiwa made a strong finish to the first half, and the pressure paid off when Kitajima headed home Jorge Wagner’s corner to send the home side into the break a goal up.
Naoyuki Fujita almost leveled the score five minutes into the second half when he thumped a free kick against the crossbar, before Junya Tanaka rattled the woodwork at the other end with a volley from another Wagner cross.
But with Reysol looking more and more likely to add to their tally, Kobayashi grabbed the equalizer. Kim Min Woo swung a free kick into the Kashiwa box, and Kobayashi was on hand to fire the ball home after it broke his way following a scramble in the six-yard area.
Both teams had chances to claim all three points in a frantic finale, but Kashiwa substitute Masato Kudo missed the best of the them when his lunge at a Hiroki Sakai cross fell just short of connecting.
“We haven’t been getting good results recently and we wanted to do all we could to win today,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho. “They are a strong team and we knew they would keep fighting until the end. We created a lot of chances but we just couldn’t put them away.
“All we are lacking at the moment is the final touch to put the ball in the net.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Urawa Reds rebounded from defeat in last week’s Saitama derby with a 2-1 win away to Nagoya Grampus, while Shimizu S-Pulse also picked up three points on their travels with a 1-0 victory over FC Tokyo. Sanfrecce Hiroshima did likewise, 4-1 over Kawasaki Frontale.
League leaders Vegalta Sendai maintained their unbeaten record with a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata, Kashima Antlers thumped Gamba Osaka 5-0, and Yokohama F. Marinos finally picked up their first victory of the season, 3-1 over Vissel Kobe.
Omiya Ardija beat Consadole Sapporo 2-1, and in the day’s late game Cerezo Osaka topped Jubilo Iwate 3-2.