SAITAMA – Omiya Ardija came from behind to end Kashima Antlers’ unbeaten start to the J. League season with a 3-1 win on Saturday.
Davi put Kashima ahead in the 15th minute at Nack5 Stadium before Shin Kanazawa equalized with a long-range effort nine minutes before halftime, and Milivoje Novakovic shifted the balance further when he gave the home side the lead shortly after the break.
Substitute Takamitsu Tomiyama then put the icing on the cake with a spectacular third goal 11 minutes from time, capping a successful afternoon for an Omiya side that has yet to taste defeat four games into the new season.
“I’m very happy,” said manager Zdenko Verdenik. “We won at home, and I am very satisfied with the way we played in the second half. We couldn’t play the way we wanted in the first half, and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Kashima had scored a second or a third goal.
“At halftime I told the players that the problem wasn’t tactical, it was mental. I could see that their heads had dropped so I helped to bring them back up. We managed to play the second half in the way we should have played the first, and because of that we got the goals we needed.”
Omiya has never finished in the top half of the table in eight straight seasons in the first division, but Novakovic believes this could be the year that changes.
“In training and in games we have confidence in our ability to be a good team,” said the Slovenian. “If we can convince ourselves of that, there is a lot more we are capable of.
“I think we have the quality to be challenging around the top of the table. If we believe in ourselves, we can do it.”
Novakovic returned to Omiya’s starting lineup after scoring in Slovenia’s midweek 2-1 World Cup-qualifying defeat to Iceland, and the 33-year-old almost made an instant impact when he curled a free kick past the post in the 11th minute.
Instead it was the visitors who took the lead after a fast break forward. Yasushi Endo fed Gaku Shibasaki running into the Ardija box, and Davi was on hand to sweep the ball home after goalkeeper Takashi Kitano could only parry Shibasaki’s effort.
Omiya stuck to the task, and the home side got its reward when Kanazawa equalized in the 36th minute. The midfielder let rip with a shot from distance, and Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata could not get down fast enough to prevent it from bouncing off the post and in.
Ardija came out for the second half with all guns blazing, and it was not long before Novakovic gave them the lead. Shohei Takahashi burst into the box to receive the ball in space, and the 21-year-old had the presence of mind to play another pass for the Slovenian striker to smash home.
Kitano stopped a Juninho effort on the line as Kashima hit back, but Tomiyama cut the revival dead in its tracks with Omiya’s third goal in the 79th minute. The substitute picked up the ball on the right wing before cutting inside, then unleashed a ferocious shot that arrowed past Sogahata into the top corner.
“If you watch the first half and then the second half, you would think you were watching two different teams,” said Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo, whose team has one win, two draws and one defeat so far this season. “There is a lot of experience in this team, and we shouldn’t be giving away goals at the start and end of a half. We have to concentrate and keep our wits about us at all times from start to finish.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima crushed Shimizu S-Pulse 4-0, Cerezo Osaka lost their 100 percent record with a 1-1 draw with Vegalta Sendai, and a Yohei Toyoda hat trick was not enough to give Sagan Tosu a win as Jubilo Iwata came back to claim a 3-3 draw.
Urawa Reds beat Albirex Niigata 2-0, Kawasaki Frontale scored a late equalizer to draw 1-1 with Ventforet Kofu, and Nagoya Grampus picked up a 2-0 win over Shonan Bellmare.
Kashiwa Reysol beat promoted Oita Trinita 3-1, while in the day’s late game, Yoshihito Fujita struck in the 90th minute to preserve Yokohama F. Marinos’ perfect start to the season with a 3-2 win over FC Tokyo.