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Antlers rally for win

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Kashima Antlers came from behind to beat Yokohama F . Marinos 3-1 on Saturday as the J. League’s early front-runners went head to head.

Yuzo Kurihara put Marinos in front three minutes before halftime at Nissan Stadium with a bullet header, only for Shoma Doi to equalize with a well-taken goal nine minutes after the interval.

Substitute Takuya Nozawa then gave Kashima the lead with a spectacular volley in the 80th minute, before Gaku Shibasaki put the seal on an impressive second-half performance with Antlers’ third goal three minutes from time.

Both teams had won their opening three games of the season without conceding a single goal before slumping to defeats last weekend, and Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo was happy to get back on track after a difficult opening 45 minutes against Marinos.

“At halftime I didn’t have any complaints with the amount my players were running, but I wanted them to be positive and show what they could do,” said the Brazilian. “It’s a long season, and if you don’t take risks and try things, then you won’t get anywhere.

“You have to be bold. We didn’t play our own football in the first half but after the break we really showed what we are capable of.”

Marinos’ perfect start to the season ended with a surprise 1-0 loss to Ventforet Kofu last weekend, and manager Yasuhiro Higuchi is keen to return to winning ways as quickly as possible.

“In our previous game we lost because we weren’t brave enough, so all week we’ve been working on getting our aggressiveness back,” said Higuchi. “We have to accept this result because they were better than us. We’re only five games into the season but we’ve now lost two in a row and we have to try to turn that around.”

Neither side managed to fashion any clear-cut chances for the majority of a cagey first half, but when the opening goal came, it arrived in emphatic style. Shunsuke Nakamura swung in a corner from the left, and Kurihara rose to thump an unstoppable header past goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.

But if Kurihara’s goal was all about raw power, Doi equalized nine minutes after the break with a move of pure finesse. Yasushi Endo played a perfect pass forward, then Doi broke through two tackles before calmly slotting the ball past Tetsuya Enomoto.

Davi dragged a shot wide of the post soon after as Kashima went in search of a second, and Shuto Yamamoto should have done better with the goal at his mercy in the 78th minute.

But Nozawa made up for it when he put Kashima ahead in the 80th minute, swiveling to connect with Shibasaki’s exceptional chipped pass and volley the ball past a helpless Enomoto.

“I made the assist, but the most important thing is that he was able to score it in the way he so often does, so I’m very grateful,” Shibasaki said of Nozawa’s wonder strike. “I saw the chance as I was trapping the ball, and the timing was just right.”

Shibasaki then put the icing on the cake himself seven minutes later, taking the ball down the left and drawing a shot across the keeper into the corner of the net.

Elsewhere in the J. League, Cerezo Osaka’s run of three straight wins came to a halt with a 0-0 draw against Albirex Niigata, while champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat promoted Tokushima Vortis 3-1. Hiroyuki Takasaki scored Vortis’ goal, which was their first of the season.

FC Tokyo came from behind to pick up their first win of the season — 3-1 over Shimizu S-Pulse — while Vissel Kobe also rallied to beat Urawa Reds 3-1.

Omiya Ardija scored twice in the final seven minutes to claim a 2-2 draw with Kashiwa Reysol, and Vegalta Sendai and Ventforet drew 1-1.

In the day’s late game, Sagan Tosu beat Gamba Osaka 2-0.