YOKOHAMA – Yokohama F. Marinos held on to first place in the J. League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Vissel Kobe on Saturday night.
Marinos, who moved top for the first time in over five years last weekend, broke down a resolute Kobe defense when Shingo Hyodo turned and fired home from close range in the 63rd minute at Nissan Stadium, but the Kanagawa side had to remain content with leading the league on goal difference after second-place Kashiwa Reysol beat Kashima Antlers 2-1.
Marinos stretched their unbeaten run to seven games with the win, but manager Kazushi Kimura did not sound confident of it lasting much longer if his team continues to grind out results by the narrowest of margins.
“Is it really OK for us to win like this?” Kimura asked after the game. “I can’t really be satisfied just because we’ve won the match.
“If we had put our chances away in the first half, then it might have been a different game. Kobe didn’t really have many opportunities because we concentrated very well in defense, but I was looking for us to score more goals.
“We have to improve our buildup play and get more men forward to support the strikers. But we have won again, and really I suppose you have to be satisfied with winning.”
Shunsuke Nakamura was as influential as ever for Marinos in an even first half, but Kazuma Watanabe was unable to take advantage of the veteran playmaker’s promptimgs and failed to hit the target with a series of chances that came his way.
Both sides adopted a shoot-on-sight policy from the first whistle, and that approach almost paid off when Vissel striker Popo forced a scrambling save out of Marinos goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura in the 58th minute and skimmed another shot over the bar moments later.
But just when it looked like a dull game was limping toward ascoreless draw, Hyodo popped up to break the deadlock. Hiroyuki Taniguchi headed a Yasuhiro Hato cross back into the danger area, and Hyodo turned to sweep the ball home after Masashi Oguro had failed to connect with his attempt.
Hideo Tanaka had a late chance to snatch a point for the visitors with a shot that flashed into the side netting, but Yokohama’s defense held firm until the final whistle and Vissel manager Masahiro Wada was quick to pay tribute afterward.
“We had the chances but we weren’t able to take them, and Marinos were always able to throw their bodies in the way to cut out the danger when it mattered,” he said.
Elsewhere in the J. League, third-place Nagoya Grampus stayed within striking distance of the leaders with a 3-2 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but Kawasaki Frontale stumbled with a 1-0 defeat to lowly Albirex Niigata and Gamba Osaka could only manage a 2-2 draw with Jubilo Iwata.
Urawa Reds overcame the 12th-minute dismissal of goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato to beat Ventforet Kofu 2-0, Omiya Ardija beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0, and Cerezo Osaka turned on the style with a 4-0 thrashing of Shimizu S-Pulse.