KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. – Brazilian striker Alex Mineiro struck a superb double to give Kashima Antlers a 3-1 win away to Kashiwa Reysol as J. League first-division action resumed Saturday after a three-week break.
The result kept Kashima’s unbeaten start to the season intact with seven points from three games, while FC Tokyo and first-division new boys Omiya Ardija stayed among the early pacesetters with wins over Vissel Kobe (2-1) and Cerezo Osaka (1-0), respectively.
Defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos are a point behind after a 4-1 thrashing of Albirex Niigata.
Seeking its first title since 2001, Kashima dominated the first half at Kashiwanoha Stadium and Fernando latched on to a cute pass from Masashi Motoyama to slot home the opener after seven minutes.
Fernando then caught the Kashiwa defense napping 10 minutes later and sent a quick free-kick to compatriot Mineiro, who beat Kashiwa goalkeeper Yuta Minami from close range.
Kashiwa came out firing all cylinders after the break and Tatsuya Yazawa reduced the deficit in the 54th minute with a tap-in after good work on the left from Japan international striker Keiji Tamada.
But Mineiro produced a moment of class as he twisted and turned before beating Yuta Minami with a clinical finish into the far corner to seal the win nine minutes from time.
Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo singled out Mitsuo Ogasawara and Motoyama, who have been on World Cup duty this week with Japan, for special praise.
“Motoyama and Ogasawara were the best players for me today even though they were so tired because they had been with the national team,” the Brazilian said.
“In the second half, their bodies weren’t able to respond to what their minds were telling them but fortunately we got the goals when it mattered.”
FC Tokyo stayed unbeaten thanks to first-half goals from Masashi Miyazawa and Yasuyuki Konno at Kobe Wing Stadium, while Brazilian Christian scored the decisive goal to move Omiya on to seven points and leave Cerezo nursing a third straight defeat.
At Nissan Stadium, Yokohama took less than a minute to open the scoring through in-form Hideo Oshima, who powered home a cross from Ryuji Kawai before Masahiro Ohashi doubled the lead three minutes later.
Kawai, who played a key role in helping Yokohama defeat Urawa Reds to clinch the championship last year, killed the game off with the third seven minutes before the break.
Shingo Suzuki pulled one back for the visitors midway through the second half but Hayuma Tanaka completed the rout nine minutes from time.
Elsewhere, substitute Bobby Cullen struck his first J. League goal to rescue a point for Jubilo Iwata in the 1-1 draw with local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse.
The 19-year-old striker struck in the 84th minute to cancel out a long-range free-kick from former Japan defender Ryuzo Morioka.
Nagoya Grampus Eight, which cruised to a 3-0 win at Iwata on March 13, also needed a late goal from Marques to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
In Saturday’s late game, Oita Trinita beat Urawa Reds 1-0, while Tokyo Verdy hosts JEF United Chiba and Gamba Osaka plays Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday.
Marinos plan friendlies
YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) J. League champions Yokohama F. Marinos are in the final stages of talks with European powerhouses Juventus and Barcelona on holding friendly matches in Yokohama in June, F. Marinos officials said Saturday.
Under the proposals being considered, Yokohama would likely host Juventus of Italy on June 1 and Spanish side Barcelona on June 12 or 13 — both at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, they said.
F. Marinos also plan to make a trip to the United States in between the two matches for a friendly with a Major League Soccer team.
Following the fixtures set for May 14-15, the J. League first division will take a month-and-a-half break to accommodate the national side’s World Cup qualifiers away to Bahrain and North Korea as well as their Confederations Cup matches in Germany.
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