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Japan defender Yuji Nakazawa had a bad day at the office as Yokohama F. Marinos squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Tokyo Verdy on the opening day of the J. League second stage on Saturday.

News photoDaisuke Saito of Kyoto Purple Sanga avoids the tackle of a
Kashiwa Reysol player during Saturday’s J. League second-stage match at Kashiwa Stadium. Reysol won
2-1.

First-stage winner Yokohama looked to be cruising as strikes in the 28th and 39th minutes from Brazilian forward Marquinhos gave Takeshi Okada’s men a two-goal halftime cushion in monsoon-like conditions at International Stadium Yokohama.

But within four minutes of the restart Verdy had pulled one back through Naoto Sakurai and the former Urawa Reds forward completed the simplest of tasks to earn his side a share of the spoils on the hour after some sloppy defending from Nakazawa.

Called up for the first time this week by national team coach Zico for Japan’s upcoming friendly against Nigeria, Nakazawa naively attempted to shield the ball to safety with Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma snapping at his heels.

But the 25-year-old, whose brace against Vissel Kobe a fortnight ago powered Yokohama to the first-stage title, dithered for too long and allowed Mboma to mug him and slide the ball across the face of goal for Sakurai to slot his second of the evening into an empty net.

Defending champion Jubilo Iwata, which had to settle for a runnerup finish in the first stage, also got off on the wrong foot after going down 3-1 at Urawa — Brazilian Emerson scoring twice for the home side to take his tally for the season to 11.

Iwata last season became the first team in the J. League to win a two-stage double.

Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers, who finished a disappointing eighth in the first stage, made a winning start as they posted their second victory in quick succession over Nagoya Grampus Eight.

After thrashing Nagoya 5-1 in the Nabisco Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday, Kashima made it two out of two and inflicted a first league defeat on new Nagoya manager Nelsinho thanks to a 57th-minute free-kick from Japan midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara.

At Ajinomoto Stadium, Yoshiro Abe headed a late winner to give FC Tokyo a 2-1 win over Cerezo Osaka, Kashiwa Reysol won by the same scoreline at home to first-division whipping boys Kyoto Purple Sanga while Shimizu S-Pulse was held 2-2 at home to Vegalta Sendai.

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