KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Kashima Antlers won 3-1 away to Kashiwa Reysol in the J. League on Thursday night to extend their unbeaten run to four league matches.
Naomichi Ueda headed Kashima in front in first-half stoppage time with his first career goal and, after Eduardo had equalized for Reysol, Caio buried the second midway through the second half before substitute Atsutaka Nakamura completed the win in the dying seconds.
The result moved Kashima onto eight points from six games, three behind joint leaders Urawa Reds and FC Tokyo, who both play on Saturday. Reysol have seven points.
“It’s good that we keep winning, or at least not losing, otherwise I would have already lost my job,” joked Kashima boss Toninho Cerezo.
“I think losing or not being able to win at the start of the season in the league and Asian Champions League was a shock to the players. They woke up and realized they have to play more seriously and train more seriously.” said the Brazilian.
“That is the big difference for the players. But in saying that, we haven’t played that badly in the games we haven’t won in the ACL and J. League. We have had chances and not been able to score.”
After a lackluster start to the season, Kashima has hit its stride in recent weeks, the seven-time league champions coming into the game unbeaten in their previous four matches in all competitions.
And the visitors could have been two goals up in the first five minutes, but for some solid goalkeeping by Kashiwa custodian Takanori Sugeno.
Shuto Yamamoto saw a dipping header tipped over the crossbar and Sugeno then got down sharply to push a vicious effort from Yasushi Endo around his right-hand post.
Kashiwa had chances of its own, and Masato Kudo had a goal ruled out for offside on 18 minutes before Kashima ‘keeper Hitoshi Sogahata used his feet to block a shot from the former Japan striker.
Sugeno produced more heroics to deny Endo once again, but was helpless to stop Kashima breaking the deadlock on the stroke of halftime as Ueda rose at the far post to turn in a pin-point free kick from Gaku Shibsaski.
“It was a difficult game but everyone really dug in tonight and this is a massive win for us,” said Ueda. “I wanted to score today and it was a great ball into the box so I am grateful to Gaku for that.”
Kashima’s lead did not last long though, as Reysol leveled with a scrappy effort four minutes into the second half.
Sogahata got down at his near post to push out a deflected free kick from Cristiano, but Eduardo was on hand to stab home the equalizer in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Substitute Takeshi Aoki and Shibsaki both went close, and Kashima regained the lead in the 71st minute, when Caio drilled home from close range after Sugeno had parried a shot from Yamamoto.
Nakamura capitalized on sloppy defending to wrap up the win in the 94th minute.