Kawasaki chokes on Kashiwa’s defense


Kawasaki Frontale, the J. League’s top scoring side, were stifled by Kashiwa Reysol, settling for a 1-1 draw that ended their three-game win streak on Friday.

Frontale, who lead J1 with 16 goals from seven games, failed to overcome Leandro’s early strike at Todoroki Stadium, where Masaki Yamamoto equalized midway through the second half.

Yahiro Kazama’s men improved to 11 points, four points off the pace of Kashima Antlers, who host Albirex Niigata on Saturday. Kashiwa has 10 points.

Due to a slew of injuries, Kazama changed four from his first team which defeated Tokushima Vortis 4-0 on Sunday, but World Cup striker Yoshito Okubo said it was not an excuse.

“We ought to play for 90 minutes if we want to win; we only played 45 tonight,” said Okubo, who had scored in four consecutive league games. “We wasted a perfectly good opportunity.

“All the strong teams find a way to win even in situations like this. Guys step up and cover for one another. That’s what good, deep squads do.

“This is how we’re like when we don’t win.”

Kawasaki made things difficult for itself by falling asleep on defense in the fifth minute for Leandro to open the scoring with his third goal of the campaign.

With the lead in hand, Kashiwa suffocated the hosts, who were still without Yu Kobayashi, the team’s joint top scorer with Okubo sidelined by a right groin injury, which forced him to withdraw from the national side’s training camp earlier this week.

Frontale did not take a single shot on target in the first half, and it was not until the 73rd minute when Yamamoto scored that they finally created one.

Kentaro Moriya started the pretty sequence with a surging run through midfield before laying off to captain Kengo Nakamura, who sent Yamamoto through for the finish.

The game opened up from that point on, with both sides coming out in search of a second goal.

Junya Tanaka, who scored and assisted in Reysol’s 2-1 home win over Cerezo Osaka last weekend, thought he was the hero again in the 85th minute, but Yohei Nishibe denied him with a fingertip save.

Kawasaki poured it on in the dying minutes, but failed to find the net before the final whistle much to its disappointment.