Soccer / J. League

Okubo brace sends Frontale past Reysol


J. League leading scorer Yoshito Okubo scored twice to pile more misery on Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday, helping Kawasaki Frontale to a 3-1 win in a potential dress rehearsal for next month’s Nabisco Cup final.

Kashiwa was badly in need of a tonic after it was knocked out of the Asian Champions League in the semifinals in midweek, but Okubo’s 20th and 21st goals of the campaign put Frontale 2-0 up, and Renato sealed the win late on with a blistering strike after Jorge Wagner had pulled one back for Reysol from the penalty spot.

Victory moved sixth-placed Kawasaki within eight points of leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who came from behind to beat Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 on Saturday.

“This was an important game for us to stay near the top of the table and it is a big step for us to beat Reysol the way we did,” said Okubo.

“It is a massive three points for us and hopefully we can keep this form going until the end of the season,” added the former Japan striker.

“We have the Nabisco Cup (semifinal second leg) up next (weekend) and we want to win that and get to the final and then take it from there.”

Kawasaki took the lead after just six minutes. Kengo Nakamura picked out Renato and the Brazilian made space for himself down the left and whipped the ball into the six-yard box for Okubo to tap into an unguarded net.

Masato Kudo should have leveled for Reysol with a free header that Rikihiro Sugiyama pushed to safety, and Okubo nearly made Kashiwa pay with a strike from distance at the other end.

A fine reaction save from Sugiyama helped protect Kawasaki’s lead at the break, and Okubo made it 2-0 six minutes into the second half, squeezing a penalty past Takanori Sugeno after Renato had been bundled over by Masato Fujita.

“I thought he (Sugeno) had caught it (the penalty). I’m grateful it went in,” said Okubo.

Kashiwa was awarded a penalty of its own soon after when Kyohei Noborizato handled Tetsuro Ota’s cross, and Wagner pulled the visitors back into the game when he calmly sent Sugiyama the wrong way, sweeping into the left-hand corner.

But Renato had the last word, giving Sugeno no chance with a fierce strike from just inside the box.

“It was a close game, but the margin of the defeat shows that three times we were guilty of careless defending,” said Kashiwa boss Nelsinho.

“We conceded because of our own mistakes, but when you look at the overall game and the number of chances we created it was a tight contest.”