YOKOHAMA – Vegalta Sendai dealt Yokohama F. Marinos’ J. League title ambitions a heavy blow with a come-from-behind 3-1 win on Saturday.
Marinos, starting the day three points behind league-leaders Gamba Osaka in fourth place, looked confident of ending Vegalta’s three-game winning streak when Yuzo Kobayashi gave the home side a second-minute lead at Nissan Stadium.
But fifth-place Vegalta hit back through midfielder Makoto Kakuda in the 10th minute, before former national team striker Atsushi Yanagisawa put the visitors in front two minutes later with an excellent looping header.
Shingo Akamine then added another early in the second half to secure the victory for Sendai, although Gamba’s shock 2-0 loss to Ventforet Kofu later in the day softened the blow for Marinos’ chances of a first title since 2004.
“They did to us what we wanted to do to them,” said Marinos manager Kazushi Kimura. “We targeted them down the right side and that led to our first goal, but then we left them a gap and they took it for the equalizer. We made some mistakes and we had some errors of judgement.
“It’s a shock for the players but there are seven games left, and we have to keep going. We have to put this behind us.”
After going nine games without a win over the summer, Vegalta manager Makoto Teguramori was delighted to see his side close the gap on Marinos to seven points.
“Marinos are a team fighting for the title, and in that situation you have to win your home games, so I knew there would be some pressure on them,” he said. “They scored but we managed to equalize quickly, and after that we were in control of the game.
“I told the players that they have now laid the groundwork to be involved in the title race, and this gives us a ray of hope that we can do that.”
Kobayashi got Marinos off to the perfect start when he strode out of defense to capitalize on good work by Yuji Ono and Hiroyuki Taniguchi, nicking in front of Naoki Sugai to poke the ball home.
The visitors’ response, however, did not take long in coming. Yokohama’s defense failed to deal with Yanagisawa’s hopeful punt forward, and Kakuda collected a knockdown to lash the ball past Hiroki Iikura from long range.
Two minutes later, Vegalta had the lead. Ryang Yong Gi swung in a cross from the left, and Yanagisawa surprised everyone by shifting his body shape to launch a header into the far top corner.
The action showed no signs of slowing as Ono hit the post with a curling shot 10 minutes later, and Iikura had to be alert to smother an Akamine effort after a quick break forward.
But it was a mistake from Marinos defender Yuzo Kurihara in the 55th minute that gifted Vegalta their third. The 28-year-old stumbled as he attempted to get his head onto a routine clearance, and Ryang nodded the loose ball down for Akamine to drill home.
“To win like this after being behind gives us a lot of confidence,” said Ryang.
Vegalta moved three points clear of sixth-place Kashima Antlers, who drew 0-0 with Urawa Reds.
In the day’s other games, Kawasaki Frontale and Shimizu S-Pulse played to a 1-1 draw and Jubilo Iwate defeated Albirex Niigata 1-0.