YOKOHAMA – Substitute Jin Hanato struck one minute to time as Yokohama F. Marinos extended their perfect start to the J.League season to six games with a 2-1 victory over Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.
Hanato opened his 2013 account after coming on late for Manabu Saito, pouncing on a loose ball from captain Shunsuke Nakamura’s corner. Marinos drew first blood through Seitaro Tomisawa just before the intermission, and Yusuke Tanaka netted for winless Frontale.
“I was hoping I could score the winner and be the hero,” said the 22-year-old Hanato, who was on loan to Giravanz Kitakyushu last season. “I don’t even remember the goal. I just hit it with all my might.”
“Right now, no one on our team thinks we can lose.”
Marinos’ win streak is the best start in J1 since the league adopted a single-stage format in 2005.
“All we’re trying to do is play hard and that’s really all you can do because you win some, you lose some,” said Nakamura, who also set up Tomisawa’s opener with a corner. “In close games like this, set pieces can be crucial as they were today.”
Kawasaki have just one win in nine games combined in the league and the Nabisco Cup, and coach Yahiro Kazama has come under fire over the team’s poor start.
Asked if he felt his job was in danger, Kazama said, “All I can do is keep my chin up and focus on my job. It’s not for me to worry about because it’s out of my control.”
For most of the first half, the game seesawed back and forth with both teams doing little creating until the 44th minute, when Marinos won a corner after Rikihiro Sugiyama parried away a stinging effort by Marquinhos.
Tomisawa made the most of the opportunity, heading home off the palms of Sugiyama after Nakamura swung in a corner from the right flag as the hosts grabbed the halftime lead.
After the break, Marquinhos missed a pair of great chances that would have put the visitors to bed.
In the 55th minute, the former Kashima Antlers man struck the bar with a free kick from almost 30 meters out and four minutes past the hour, the 2008 league MVP chipped wide of the target in a one-on-one with Sugiyama.
Kawasaki managed to equalize in the 65th minute through Tanaka, who nodded in his first goal of the season from a corner. Frontale almost took the lead after 76 minutes, when Renato forced a diving save from Tetsuya Enomoto with a curling free kick from the inside right channel.
But Marinos had the last laugh as Hanato fired into the bottom corner from a penalty-box scramble to open up a five-point lead over Urawa Reds, who host Shonan Bellmare on Sunday.
Marinos are away to Albirex Niigata next weekend.
Kawasaki could have sorely used World Cup striker Yoshito Okubo, who missed the match with a hernia that flared up a day earlier and is out indefinitely.
Elsewhere in J1, Omiya Ardija overcame the sending off of Shohei Takahashi to tie Kashima Antlers’ record unbeaten run of 17 games after beating Cerezo Osaka 2-1 away as Zlatan Ljubijankic decided the match in the 85th minute.
Shin Kanazawa opened the scoring in the first minute for Omiya before Yoichiro Kakitani leveled moments before halftime at Nagai Stadium.
Takahashi was issued back-to-back yellow cards in the 64th minute to reduce the visitors to 10 men, but Ardija stayed in the game before Ljubijankic won it in the dying minutes.
Omiya is in second, four points behind Marinos, with Urawa in third another point back.
J2 champions Ventforet Kofu stomped Emperor’s Cup holders Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 at home where Kensuke Fukuda, Hugo and Yukio Tsuchiya netted for the hosts in the first kickoff of the day.
Nagoya Grampus collected another three points with a 2-0 home win against Albirex, improving to 11 points on the year, while Vegalta Sendai edged FC Tokyo 2-1 at home for their second win.
Yuya Osako struck a 90th-minute winner for Kashima, who won 3-2 away to Oita Trinita, and Shimizu S-Pulse defeated Jubilo Iwata 1-0 in the Shizuoka derby thanks to Taisuke Muramatsu’s goal in the 80th minute.
Reysol lose standouts
Kashiwa Reysol midfielders Leandro Domingues and Kenta Kano will be both be sidelined for two weeks and four weeks, respectively, due to injuries, the J.League club said Saturday.
Both are former J.League Players of the Year, Domingues and Kano, a winter signing from Yokohama F.Marinos, sustained left thigh injuries in last weekend’s 3-3 draw at home to Nagoya Grampus.