KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Junya Tanaka scored with a thunderbolt in the third and final minute of injury time to give Kashiwa Reysol a 3-2 win over Urawa Reds on Saturday.
Urawa went into the game at Hitachi Stadium third in the J. League table having put together a three-game winning streak, and a 24th-minute opener from Genki Haraguchi suggested the Saitama side was in the mood to make it four.
Reysol hit back in the second half through substitute Akimi Barada before Tanaka put the home side in front from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute, only for Yuki Abe to equalize for Reds with a header three minutes later.
But Tanaka would have the last word as the match moved ever closer to the final whistle, pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box to fire home in the 93rd minute and collect all three points for Kashiwa.
“The ball fell nicely for me and I’m satisfied that I could finish it,” said Tanaka, who took his scoring tally to three for the season. “I was a little nervous with the penalty because I knew it would have been bad if I had missed it, but I could see our fans’ faces behind the goal and that gave me confidence.
“It’s been a while since we played in heat like this, and it was difficult but we kept going until the end. A lot of things happened in the game and we had to make a lot of changes. But when you win it breeds confidence and hopefully now we can start climbing the table.”
Tanaka’s late winner was a hammer blow for Reds having begun the day only a point behind league leaders Vissel Kobe, but manager Mihailo Petrovic accepted that his side paid the price for its attacking outlook.
“At 2-2 we went looking for the win and ended up taking nothing from the game,” said Petrovic. “We had hit the crossbar and the post, and if they had gone in then it would have been a different story. But that’s football.
“We could have ended up with a point, but I think the fact that we got nothing was a result of us looking for all three.”
Reysol started the match looking likeliest to break the deadlock, but instead it was the visitors who scored first thanks to a stunning strike by Haraguchi.
Yosuke Kashiwagi played the ball forward to find his teammate in acres of space, but just when it looked like he had wasted the opportunity with a poor first touch, Haraguchi swiveled to hit the ball on the turn and send it rocketing past goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno.
A 45th-minute foul on Shinzo Koroki on the edge of the Reysol box gave Urawa the chance to head into the break two goals ahead, but Kashiwagi crashed his effort against the bar.
Barada almost made an impact two minutes after coming on as a halftime substitute only to see Urawa goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa smother his shot, but there was nothing Nishikawa could do when Barada thumped home a volley from the edge of the box on the hour mark.
A Tsukasa Umesaki foul on Wataru Hashimoto then gave the home side the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot, and Tanaka delivered, calmly rolling the ball into the corner.
Abe brought Urawa back on level terms just three minutes later, heading home from a corner.
But a breathless match was settled in style when Tanaka hit the winner in the final minute. The ball broke loose on the edge of the box, and Tanaka let rip with a right-foot strike that nestled into the corner of the net.
“Either team could have won today,” said Kashiwa manager Nelsinho. “Both sets of players did well and kept going until the final whistle, but my players showed patience and perseverence and it paid off in the end.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Kashima Antlers reclaimed first place with a 3-0 thrashing of champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Caio, Shoma Doi and Yasushi Endo scored the goals for the seven-time champions, who moved top ahead of Vissel and Sagan Tosu on goal difference.
Vissel fought back from a Diego Forlan brace to claim a 2-2 draw with Cerezo Osaka. Pedro Junior opened the scoring for Vissel before Uruguayan star Forlan scored twice within the space of eight second-half minutes, but Marquinhos salvaged a point for promoted Vissel from the penalty spot in the 78th minute.
Hiroyuki Taniguchi hit a 93rd-minute winner to send Sagan level on points with Antlers and Vissel in a 3-2 victory over Nagoya Grampus.
Shimizu S-Pulse beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0, while a Keigo Higashi goal gave FC Tokyo a win over Yokohama F. Marinos by the same scoreline and Albirex Niigata kept bottom side Tokushima Vortis on zero points after a 2-1 victory.
Last season’s top scorer Yoshito Okubo struck in the 92nd minute to give Kawasaki Frontale a 2-1 win over Gamba Osaka, while in the day’s other game, Ventforet Kofu beat Omiya Ardija 2-0.