SAITAMA – Kashiwa Reysol beat Omiya Ardija 3-2 on Saturday night to consign the free-falling Saitama side to its seventh straight defeat.
Omiya went into the match at Nack5 Stadium having appointed new manager Tsutomu Ogura earlier in the week in an attempt to stop the rot that had seen it drop from first to fifth in the J.League table in the space of a month, but two goals from Reysol’s Junya Tanaka inside the opening half-hour put the home side on the back foot from the outset.
Zlatan Ljubijankic pulled one back from the penalty spot on the stroke of halftime before Daigo Watanabe equalized five minutes after the restart, but Masakatsu Sawa secured the three points for Reysol with a goal in the 65th minute to leave former national team assistant Ogura in no doubt as to the challenge he is facing.
“This is my first time to face the press after a game, and beforehand I was only thinking about what I would say if we won, not if we lost,” said Ogura, who is taking charge of a team for the first time.
“In the first half we fell behind and it became difficult for us, but then we scored the penalty and equalized and then fell behind again. We had to take risks to try to get another goal, but unfortunately it just wouldn’t come. Football is a difficult sport and this was a difficult game, but it was even more difficult than I expected.”
Australia captain Lucas Neill came off the bench in the 76th minute to make his Omiya debut after signing with the club earlier in the week, and the defender almost snatched an equalizer with a header against the crossbar deep into injury time.
“It was a nice surprise,” said the 35-year-old, who has signed until the end of the season. “Difficult when the team has lost six games in a row. You can see the confidence is low, but apart from some mistakes we played well and deserved a draw.
“Personally it was nice for me to play my first game for Omiya, but I probably should have scored. Very exciting — it was attacking football, good pace, and tonight we played a very good team.”
If Ardija were hoping for a smooth start to settle their nerves, Reysol forced them to think again. Jorge Wagner gratefully collected an ill-considered cross-field pass from Omiya’s Takuya Aoki in the 4th minute, before laying it off for Tanaka to lash home a ferocious drive from distance.
And Tanaka gave the home side a mountain to climb when he notched his second in the 27th minute, stabbing the ball home from close range after Wagner had drilled a low cross into the six-yard box.
But Ardija were handed a reprieve going into the break when Milivoje Novakovic went down in the box under a challenge from Naoya Kondo. The referee pointed to the spot, and Ljubijankic stepped up to send Takanori Sugeno the wrong way.
And five minutes into the second half, Ardija were back on level terms. Yosuke Kataoka cut the ball back from the right, Cho Young-cheol stepped over it to fool the Kashiwa defense, and Watanbe drilled a shot into the corner for the equalizer.
Kenta Kano spurned an excellent chance to restore Kashiwa’s lead on the hour mark, but Sawa made no mistake five minutes later, following up to blast home the rebound after Kitano had parried a shot from Tanaka.
“We really had to win this game tonight,” said Reysol manager Nelsinho. “The players played with that feeling from the start. Their speed and quality gave us the lead, and we got what we deserved in the first half. As soon as we arrived at the stadium today, we were ready.”
Elsewhere in the J.League, Sanfrecce Hiroshima returned to the top of the table after a 1-1 draw with Oita Trinita, with previous leaders Yokohama F. Marinos dropping to second on goal difference after losing 2-1 at Kashima Antlers.
Third-place Urawa Reds moved a point behind the leading pair after a 2-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse, while Cerezo Osaka slipped to fifth after a 1-1 draw with Nagoya Grampus.
Kota Mizunuma scored the only goal as Sagan Tosu beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0, Ventforet Kofu beat Shonan Bellmare 2-1, and FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata drew 0-0.
In the day’s other game, Yoshito Okubo took his tally to 17 goals for the season but Kawasaki Frontale lost 2-1 to Albirex Niigata.