SAITAMA – Omiya Ardija succumbed to an injury-time 3-2 defeat at home to Kawasaki Frontale and surrendered top spot to champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J. League on Wednesday night.
Renato scored from the penalty spot to snatch all three points for Kawasaki in the fifth minute of stoppage time and Hiroshima beat Vegalta Sendai 2-0 away thanks to first-half goals from Naoki Ishihara and Hisato Sato.
At the halfway stage of the season, Hiroshima has 36 points from 17 games and leads Omiya on goal difference. Yuzo Kurihara headed a late winner as Yokohama F. Marinos (34) moved into third after a 3-2 win at Urawa Reds. Reds are fourth on 31.
Buoyed by Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Urawa, Kawasaki got off to a great start and took the lead after eight minutes. Kengo Nakamura picked out Yu Kobayashi with a clever pass and the 25-year-old striker controlled the ball with his chest before smashing a half volley past Takashi Kitano.
Omiya had chances of its own and pulled level in the 25th minute when journeyman striker Suzuki, making only his second league appearance of the season, lashed home from almost 30 meters out.
The visitors should have restored their lead deep into first-half stoppage time, but Yoshito Okubo could not direct his shot on target after Kitano had parried a low shot from Masaki Yamamoto.
Omiya capitalized on that miss seven minutes into the second period. Two Kawasaki defenders closed down Suzuki but the ball managed to find its way to Hasegawa, who made no mistake from 12 meters.
Ardija enjoyed a good spell of possession and Cho Young-cheol both tested Kawasaki goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe, but sloppy defending allowed Nakamura to feed Okubo and the former Japan striker atoned for his earlier miss to beat Kitano with a deflected shot on 63 minutes.
Omiya pushed hard for a winner as the clock ticked down but was unable to find a way past Nishibe, who produced two vital stops to deny Hasegawa and Daigo Watanabe. Renato had the last word, sending Kitano the wrong way after Takuya Aoki had handled on the line and was sent off.
In other games, Tatsuya Yamashita sealed a 4-1 win for Cerezo Osaka at home to Sagan Tosu and Kazuma Watanabe struck twice as FC Tokyo won by the same score against visiting Ventforet Kofu.
Hidetaka Kanazono’s 78th-minute equalizer preserved Jubilo Iwata’s unbeaten start under Japan’s London Olympic coach Takashi Sekizuka with a 1-1 draw at Kashima Antlers, and Masato Kudo’s equalizer gave Kashiwa Reysol a 2-2 draw with Shimizu S-Pulse.
Nagoya Grampus beat bottom club Oita Trinita 2-1 away through goals from Keiji Tamada and Yoshizumi Ogawa. Albirex Niigata won 2-0 at Shonan Bellmare, Kengo Kawamata scoring both goals.
Kennedy request rejected
Nagoya Grampus said Wednesday they will not release Australia international forward Josh Kennedy for the upcoming East Asian Cup in South Korea.
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck wants the towering striker to be part of his squad at the tournament which kicks off on Saturday, but Grampus are under no obligation to release him as the EAC does not fall under the FIFA calendar.
Grampus does not want to release Kennedy as the 2010 J. League champions are struggling in 12th place in the standings. The club said it has contacted soccer’s governing world body and had confirmation that its stance must be respected.
“We are not in a good position in the table and the situation means we can’t let him go,” said Grampus general manager Kazumasa Kume.
Australia plays Japan, South Korea and China at the July 20-28 tournament.