SENDAI – Two-time World Cup forward Atsushi Yanagisawa opened his 2013 account at the perfect time as Vegalta Sendai recorded their first-ever win in the Asian Champions League with a 1-0 victory over FC Seoul on Wednesday.
Yanagisawa scored shortly after the quarter-hour in his first start of the season to help ACL debutants Sendai hand Group E leader Seoul its first defeat of the competition, and exact revenge for last week’s 2-1 defeat in the South Korean capital.
Makoto Teguramori’s men now have five points from four games, two points behind Seoul. Their next match is set for April 24 at Thailand’s Buriram United.
In Group G, J. League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima ended their dry spell in Asia, collecting their first point of the tournament with a 1-1 draw away to Pohang Steelers.
Naoki Ishihara drew first blood in the 61st minute for Hiroshima, which had lost its first three times out, before Hwang Jin Sung leveled for the hosts five minutes later.
“We were at home so we had to win, no matter what,” said Yanagisawa, the former national team star who turns 36 next month. “We wanted to pay them back for last week.”
Yanagisawa’s strike handed Vegalta their second win of 2013 in all competitions. Sendai are currently 11th in the J. League, with just five points from the first five games.
“(Ryang) Yong Gi deserves just as much credit as I do,” the former Kashima Antlers man said. “He’s the one who told me to run for the near post on the corner. We only have two games left and we need to win them both.”
“Hopefully, this will get us rolling in the J. League, too,” he added.
In only his second appearance of the year following last Wednesday’s loss in Seoul, Yanagisawa, who only scored twice in the J. League in 2012, put Sendai in front eight minutes after Wilson struck the bar on the run in the eighth minute.
From a left-wing corner by Ryang, Yanagisawa glanced a header at the near post, past goalkeeper Kim Yong Dae who was beaten for just the second time this tournament.
Seoul should have leveled before heading into the tunnel as Mauricio Molina was free on the edge of the box, but the Colombian striker missed the target by a mile.
The visitors introduced former Urawa Reds man Sergio Escudero for the second half, when Seoul saw more time on the ball and restricted Sendai to its own half.
But Vegalta kept it tight at the back and held on for the three points, as Seoul’s desperate search for an equalizer came up short at Yurtec Stadium.
Jubilo earn home triumph
Japanese international Ryoichi Maeda struck early as Group A leaders Jubilo Iwata held on to the top spot with a 1-0 home win over Shonan Bellmare in the Nabisco Cup on Wednesday.
Maeda’s 11th-minute goal gave Jubilo their third victory from four games in the league cup and a three-point lead over Yokohama F. Marinos and Omiya Ardija, who are both undefeated in the early going of the J. League.
Omiya lost for just the second time this year, going down 3-1 at the hands of Ventforet Kofu at home while Marinos were idle on the evening.
In the league, Ardija are one away from breaking Kashima Antlers’ record unbeaten run of 17 games.
Kawasaki Frontale and Shimizu S-Pulse had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Todoroki Stadium in a meeting of two struggling teams in J1.
Cerezo Osaka surfaced to the Group B lead with a 2-1 home win against two-time champions FC Tokyo at Nagai Stadium, thanks to Fabio Simplicio’s 69th-minute winner.
Cerezo, on seven points, have a one-point cushion over Nagoya Grampus and holders Kashima, who edged Albirex 2-1 in Niigata as Davi bagged a brace.
Nagoya came from behind to draw 1-1 with Oita Trinita at Mizuho Athletics Stadium, where World Cup defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka equalized one minute past the hour.