Kawasaki holds off Kashima in 15-minute rematch


Kawasaki Frontale held on to beat faltering champions Kashima Antlers 3-2 on Wednesday after playing the remaining 15 minutes of a match abandoned last month because of a waterlogged pitch.

Kawasaki were leading Kashima 3-1 after 75 minutes on Sept. 12 when referee Masayoshi Okada halted the game after torrential rain made the surface at Kashima Stadium unplayable.

J. League officials ordered both teams to restart the match with the 3-1 scoreline standing.

Kashima pulled one back just seconds after the restart, Danilo flicking on a deep free kick for Daiki Iwamasa to clip past a stunned Eiji Kawashima.

Danilo then headed against the bar and Chikashi Masuda volleyed over from a promising position as Kashima pressed for an equalizer. Masuda had a shot creep inches wide but Kawasaki weathered the storm to take the points.

“It was important for us to start well tonight but we conceded straight away,” said Kawasaki manager Takashi Sekizuka. “I had told the players not to get flustered but I guess it was inevitable given the circumstances.”

“I’m sure this match has been an extreme source of stress for Kashima. But it has been for us too and we are glad to get it out of the way,” he added.

Victory moved Kawasaki (49) within one point of Kashima and Shimizu S-Pulse, who lead the Antlers on goal difference, with six matches of the season remaining. Gamba Osaka also have 49 points.

Kashima’s defeat was their fifth in succession but manager Oswaldo Oliveira took heart from the way his players tried to battle back.

“We did everything we could in these 15 minutes. If we keep playing like we did today then something good will come of it,” said the Brazilian.

“We had four clear chances in today’s final 15 minutes and we could have won if we had luck on our side. I hope the players remember how they played for our remaining six matches.”

Kashima looked to have the championship all but sewn up several weeks ago but now only seven points separate the top eight teams.