Asano helps lift Sanfrecce to first league victory


A big day from Takuma Asano helped reigning champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima claim their first league win of the season on Sunday, a 5-1 decision at Omiya Ardija.

Nigerian forward Peter Utaka and Asano combined to set each other up in the first half, and Omiya’s fightback was short-lived as Hiroshima responded to their opponents’ only goal with three more in an emphatic display in NACK5 Stadium in Saitama Prefecture.

Omiya started the season with two straight wins but now have as many defeats in J1.

“We were saying we were going to win it no matter what before the game,” said Asano, who was making his first start of the season. “I think we showed our kind of soccer but we gave them chances too, and I could have scored more myself as well.

“I wanted to score in the league so that’s good but I’m certainly not satisfied, I’ll strive to score more.”

Hiroshima, which had a loss and two draws in its first three J1 outings and two defeats in the Asian Champions League, secured a first ACL win on Wednesday over Thailand’s Buriram United and Asano, who scored a brace in the 3-0 win, picked up where he left off.

“We didn’t have a win in three league matches but we weren’t bad in them quality-wise,” manager Hajime Moriyasu said. “It feels we are behind (the leaders) a little bit but I think this gives players confidence that by doing what we had been doing, we can get results like today.”

The 21-year-old speedster Asano was released inside the box by Utaka in the 22nd minute and retuned it back from the right for the Nigerian to slot home.

“It was good to have that scoring combination coming through, and that gives players some ideas about what they can do,” Moriyasu said.

A neat build up from Omiya saw Jin Izumisawa unmarked on the left in the box but his shot was straight at keeper Takuto Hayashi, before Asano doubled the lead in the 39th minute.

Sanfrecce’s forward pair combined again after Utaka played through Asano in a similar fashion to their first goal, but Asano had a better angle and space this time and blasted it into the near top corner for Hiroshima’s second.

Omiya came out firing after the break as Dragan Mrdja saw his 6-meter header saved well by keeper Hayashi seven minutes in, and Izumisawa’s well-weighted ball found Shigeru Yokotani in a similar position only for his effort to hit the bar. But Yokotani pulled his side one back on the hour mark.

Former Mallorca midfielder Akihiro Ienaga sneaked in behind the Hiroshima backline near the left byline and squared it for Yokotani to slide home from point-blank range.

Omiya piled on more pressure, and Ienaga should have at least hit the target when his one-two with Yokotani set him up nicely 12 meters out, and was left to rue the missed chance as Hiroshima restored the two-goal cushion in a matter of minutes, again aided by Asano.

The youngster latched onto the ball near the left byline and cut it back for Toshihiro Aoyama to tap in, via a slight deflection, in the 67th minute in his last action of the day.

“I always wanted to start and it’s important to start matches,” Asano said. “I think I gave something to think about to the manager and would like to have more matches I can start.”

Yoshifumi Kashiwa made it 4-1 six minutes later as a shaky Omiya defense let in another ball through for the midfielder to steer past ‘keeper Hitoshi Shiota, and Kosei Shibasaki made it 5-1 a minute from time off a rebound.

In the day’s only other game, Urawa Reds secured their third win of the season, 2-0 at Shonan Bellmare courtesy of goals from Tadanari Lee and Shinzo Koroki.