SHIZUOKA – Daigo Nishi and Brazilian striker Michael were on target as resurgent Albirex Niigata shattered Shimizu S-Pulse’s unbeaten start to the J. League season with a 2-0 win on Saturday.
S-Pulse remained top of the table with 24 points from 11 games, although they could see their lead cut to two points if Nagoya Grampus win at Vegalta Sendai on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Kazuma Watanabe scored twice as Yokohama F. Marinos won 3-2 away to Urawa Reds, while Yoshito Okubo sent national team manager Takeshi Okada a timely reminder ahead of Monday’s World Cup squad announcement with a stunning strike to help Vissel Kobe beat Jubilo Iwata 3-0.
Nishi lost his marker to head in Marcio Richardes’ corner at the near post on 19 minutes and the visitors ought to have gone further ahead five minutes before the break when Kisho Yano stabbed wide after sliding in to meet Gotoku Sakai’s cross.
But it was not long before Albirex doubled their lead, Michael collecting Isao Homma’s pass before picking his spot from just inside the area on 43 minutes.
S-Pulse overturned a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat Kyoto Sanga 4-2 on Wednesday but there was to be no repeat as Albirex defended resolutely to secure their third win in a row.
“We wanted to see what we were capable of doing against the leaders with our brand of soccer. We were extremely focused and did what we had to do today,” said Niigata manager Hisashi Kurosaki.
“We got one goal from a corner kick and another through Michael showing his quality in the box. We played to our strengths and that brought the right result,” he said.
Japan routs Mexico
MATSUMOTO , Nagano Pref. (Kyodo) Shinobu Ono scored twice as Japan thrashed Mexico 4-0 in the first of a two-match friendly series on Saturday.
Yukari Kinga opened the scoring after just three minutes at Matsumotodaira Stadium, and Megumi Takase put the Japanese in control with the second midway through the first half.
Ono made it 3-0 on 66 minutes before completing the scoring 13 minutes from time.
Japan plays the Mexicans again in Niigata on Tuesday in a farewell match before heading to Chengdu, China, for the May 19-30 Women’s Asian Cup.
Norio Sasaki’s women have been drawn against North Korea, Thailand and Myanmar in Group A.