KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Aspiring fisherman Cleo is quickly turning out to be something of a catch for Kashiwa Reysol.
The newly signed Brazilian forward followed up his midweek Asian Champions League heroics with a double as Reysol kicked off their J. League campaign with a 3-1 thumping of Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday.
The match-winner with his first Reysol goal in Wednesday’s gritty 1-0 triumph away to China’s Guizhou Renhe, Cleo opened the scoring early on with a deadly strike and completed his brace after outmuscling Frontale defender Sota Nakazawa on 63 minutes.
Strike partner Masato Kudo put Kashiwa out of sight with the third 18 minutes from time before Renato grabbed a late consolation for Frontale.
“It’s a good start,” Cleo said. “When we started the season I had only been training with the team for 30 days and this is an amazing feeling to score three goals in two games.
“I hope next week I can continue to score the goals and we win. The most important thing is we are starting to win.”
Reysol have hired some third-rate Brazilians in the past, notably striker Ricardo Lobo, a spectacular failure last season before being shipped off to second-division JEF United Chiba.
But the loan signing of Cleo from Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande is already proving to be an astute piece of business and it took him just five minutes to light up an overcast afternoon at Hitachi Stadium.
A probing pass from Leandro Domingues sent Cleo through, and the bustling 27-year-old striker ghosted past both Yusuke Tanaka and Nakazawa before sweeping in to stun the Frontale fans behind Yohei Nishibe’s goal.
“He has a lot of experience in Brazil, and if I am not mistaken he played for four or five seasons in Europe as well as two years in China. He is making use of that experience in our team as a target man,” said Kashiwa boss Nelsinho.
“He can hold the ball up well and get into goalscoring positions but we haven’t seen the best of him yet and I have big hopes.”
With Nishibe in no man’s land after racing out of his area to head clear, Kashiwa could have doubled its lead midway through the opening period, but Kudo was unable to keep his lofted shot on target.
With former Japan striker Yoshito Okubo, a marquee winter signing from relegated Vissel Kobe, making his debut, Kawasaki failed to pose any kind of real threat in the first half.
The visitors went close early in the second period when Yu Kobayashi had a dangerous cross cleared by another of Kashiwa’s preseason acquisitions, London Olympic defender Daisuke Suzuki.
But Cleo headed against the post before grabbing a scrappy second, collecting Kudo’s pass and lofting the ball over Nishibe before coming out on top of a wrestling match with Nakazawa as the ball trickled over the line.
“I think he (Nakazawa) cared too much about me and forgot the ball, but in J. League games you really need to fight and give it your best,” smiled Cleo, who hopes to be a fisherman when he becomes an “old geezer.”
“In my holidays in Brazil all I do is go to the river with the boats and my brother and father and forget the phone, no email, no Internet, nothing, just fishing and enjoying it eternally.”
Kudo smashed a low drive past Nishibe to make it 3-0 before Renato replied with 12 minutes left, directly from a corner.