Soccer / J. League

Frontale stay unbeaten, fail to overtake first-place Reds

Kyodo

Kawasaki Frontale maintained their unbeaten start to the season but missed the chance to reclaim top spot in the J. League first division after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Kashima Antlers on Saturday.

Caio capitalized on a defensive mistake by Shogo Taniguchi to fire Kashima in front on 27 minutes. Elsinho leveled shortly before halftime but Kawasaki had to withstand a late onslaught to remain as the only undefeated team five matches into the first stage.

Kawasaki improved to 11 points, one behind leader Urawa, which beat 10-man Ventforet Kofu 2-0 on Friday night. Kashima has 10 points.

“I wondered how we would do as I made a lot of changes to the team,” said Kawasaki manager Yahiro Kazama, who had star striker Yoshito Okubo starting on the bench and gave a first league outing of the season to defender Yuto Takeoka.

“But I think we have become a tougher team. Kashima didn’t let us play our normal game, but we managed to control ourselves when the going got tough and I’d like to take positives from this match.”

Kashima got off to a fast start and Japan striker Mu Kanazaki went close with a fifth-minute header before Shuhei Akasaki flashed a shot just wide of the left-hand post.

The visitors took the lead when a botched clearance by Taniguchi into his own box fell for Caio to volley home, but Kawasaki leveled nine minutes before the interval.

Yu Kobayashi sprinted onto a through ball from Yusuke Tasaka and lifted it over advancing goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata, leaving Elsinho with the simple task of heading into an empty net.

“It was a bit of a waste the way we conceded but that is soccer. Car crashes happen sometimes but Shogo did well to regroup (from that mistake) and showed he was mentally tough,” said Kazama.

Yasushi Endo forced Frontale ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong into a superb save in time added on and he should have put Kashima back in front five minutes into the second half, blazing Caio’s pass over the bar from close range.

Substitute Shoma Doi twice went close for Kashima and Masatada Ishii’s side increased the pressure in the late stages, with Yuma Suzuki nearly snatching victory in the last minute with a header that Jung somehow managed to keep out.

“We had a few chances at the end that we should have put away but all credit to the players,” said Ishii. “They gave it their all over the 90 minutes and we just have to refocus for our next game.”

In other games, Tatsuya Tanaka’s first-half strike earned Albirex Niigata a 1-0 win at winless Avispa Fukuoka, while Yuki Otsu’s late equalizer earned Kashiwa Reysol a 1-1 draw at Sagan Tosu.

Japan defender Masato Morishige scored twice as FC Tokyo beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2, and Leandro’s 34th minute effort sealed a come-from-behind 2-1 win for Vissel Kobe at Shonan Bellmare.

Curacao striker Martinus scored in his debut to give Yokohama F. Marinos a 2-1 win at Gamba Osaka, whose captain Yasuhito Endo missed a late penalty, while Omiya Ardija and Jubilo Iwata played out a 1-1 draw at NACK5 Stadium.

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