Soccer / J. League

Okubo brace lifts Frontale past S-Pulse

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Yoshito Okubo scored twice as Kawasaki Frontale came through a wild, swinging encounter with Shimizu S-Pulse with a 3-2 win on Saturday night.

World Cup striker Okubo got Frontale off to a flying start at Todoroki Stadium with a goal in the 11th minute, before a double from Nigerian forward Peter Utaka turned the game on its head and gave bottom-of-the-table S-Pulse a halftime lead.

But Frontale, who began the day fifth in the overall table, came roaring back in the second half, equalizing through Yuto Takeoka before Okubo notched his 13th goal of the season to claim all three points for the home side.

“Of course I wanted to score a third goal tonight but there are other players who can score goals for us too,” said Okubo. “What counts is that the team wins.”

North Korean international Chong Tese made his first appearance for S-Pulse, having joined from South Korea’s Suwon Samsung earlier this month, but the 31-year-old was unable to make an impact against the team with whom he starred for 4 1/2 years before leaving the J. League for Germany.

“It did feel like I was at home tonight,” said Chong, who played 112 times and scored 46 goals for Frontale before joining Bochum in 2010.

“There are a lot of things we need to improve on as a team. We have to be able to do better than during the time that we ran out of gas tonight. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how many goals you are leading by.

“We have to figure out what we are all meant to be doing on the pitch, and if we can do that then we can start getting results.”

The game was just over 10 minutes old when Okubo gave Frontale the lead. The striker broke forward before exchanging passes with Kentaro Moriya, then took advantage of Shimizu’s non-existent defense to pick his spot and blast the ball past goalkeeper Rikihiro Sugiyama.

Chong almost equalized in spectacular fashion 10 minutes later with a long-range lob attempt while simultaneously turning and falling. But S-Pulse did not have to wait much longer before Utaka hit the target, powering home a bullet header in the 22nd minute from Mitchell Duke’s cross.

Utaka’s threat in the air apparently went unheeded as the Nigerian proceeded to score again on the half-hour mark. Genki Omae swung in a corner, and Utaka rose to thump an unchallenged header into the back of the net.

Utaka almost completed his hat trick before the halftime whistle sounded, and Okubo still had time to hit the crossbar before referee Kenji Ogiya brought an eventful opening 45 minutes to a close.

The action continued thick and fast after the restart, and the home side got itself back on level terms in the 57th minute. Sugiyama managed to parry Yusuke Tasaka’s header after Kengo Nakamura had chipped in a free kick, but Takeoka was on hand to sweep home the rebound.

Sugiyama redeemed himself with a stunning save from Tasaka minutes later, but there was nothing the ‘keeper could do when Okubo put Frontale back in front in the 70th minute, finishing off a brilliant flowing counterattack with a crisp right-foot shot.

“If you don’t hold your ground when you are in front, you won’t win the game,” said S-Pulse manager Katsumi Oenoki. “If you don’t make any chances, then you can’t score. We are in a difficult situation but we just have to keep looking forward.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Sanfrecce Hiroshima took over at the top of the overall table with a 2-0 win over Yokohama F. Marinos, as previous leaders Urawa Reds slumped to their second defeat of the season — one week after their first — losing 2-1 to Nagoya Grampus.

Takashi Usami scored the winner to give champions Gamba Osaka a 2-1 victory over in-form Vissel Kobe in the Kansai derby, while Kashiwa Reysol climbed into second in the second-stage table with a 1-0 win over Vegalta Sendai.

Kashima Antlers won their first game following the departure of manager Toninho Cerezo, 2-1 over FC Tokyo, Matsumoto Yamaga beat Ventforet Kofu 1-0, and Sagan Tosu and Shonan Bellmare drew 1-1.

In the day’s other game, Albirex Niigata beat Montedio Yamagata 3-1.

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