Kisho Yano scored three minutes into the second half to give Nagoya Grampus a 1-0 win over FC Tokyo on Tuesday and end a run of five straight defeats.
Grampus went into the game on an opposite trajectory to Tokyo, which had won four of its previous five matches while conceding only three goals under Italian manager Massimo Ficcadenti.
But it was Grampus who pulled off the “catenaccio” smash-and-grab raid at National Stadium, taking the lead from a Yano header and then shutting up shop to leave the capital with three vital points.
“We hadn’t been getting results, and this game was close but we got there in the end,” said Nagoya manager Akira Nishino. “There are a lot of things that we didn’t do well and that we still need to work on, but given the situation we are in, we did what we had to.
“Five straight losses had dropped Grampus to 15th in the table heading into the game, and the 2010 champions were determined to get back on an even keel having begun the season with three wins from their opening four matches.
“Scoring the first goal was very important,” said Yano, who played at right-back despite being known as a striker. “If you concede first then you have to go looking for a goal whatever it takes.
“Once we had scored the first goal, everyone was determined to see out the win. Our desire was what made the difference today.”
Tokyo enjoyed the greater possession in the first half but it was Grampus who created the better chances, Kensuke Nagai and Taishi Taguchi both shooting over the bar within minutes of each other.
The match soon livened up when Grampus took the lead in the 48th minute. Yoshizumi Ogawa swung in a corner, and Yano met it at the near post with a firm header that evaded goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
Grampus defender Shun Obu then hit the crossbar with a header, minutes before Tokyo also hit the woodwork when Kazuma Watanabe unleashed a close-range shot that smacked against the outside of the post.
A spectacular 69th-minute diving header by Sota Hirayama almost got Tokyo back on level terms, before Nagoya goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki twice performed heroics to keep out a Kosuke Ota free kick and a shot from Edu.
Masato Morishige also went close as Tokyo had further chances to claw back an equalizer, but Grampus stood firm to leave Ficcadenti pondering a setback for his side’s recent revival.
“Both teams were very tactically organized in the first half, didn’t leave much space and canceled each other out,” said the former Cesena manager, who arrived at Tokyo in the offseason.
“After they scored we had to hold on for five minutes or so, but after that we re-organized ourselves and made a lot of good chances.
“The players were very tired from playing just three days ago, and it was a tough game.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Tokushima Vortis picked up their first points of the season with a 1-0 win over Ventforet Kofu. Yuya Hashiuchi scored in the 73rd minute to end the Shikoku side’s run of nine straight defeats in its debut first-division campaign.
Kashima Antlers moved one point clear at the top of the league after a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse, with champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima jumping into second after Naoki Ishihara’s 82nd-minute winner gave them a 2-1 victory over high-flying Sagan Tosu.
Vissel Kobe slipped off the pace after a 1-1 draw with Albirex Niigata as World Cup hopeful Kengo Kawamata hit a 90th-minute equalizer, while Urawa Reds moved level with Vissel after a 1-0 win over Yokohama F. Marinos. Tadanari Lee scored the decisive goal in the 56th minute.
Junya Tanaka struck twice as Kashiwa Reysol beat Gamba Osaka 2-1, Kawasaki Frontale and Vegalta Sendai drew 0-0, and in the day’s late match, Kenyu Sugimoto pounced in the 94th minute to rescue a 1-1 draw for Cerezo Osaka against Omiya Ardija.