Urawa Reds ended Kawasaki Frontale’s unbeaten start to the J. League season and replaced them at the top of the table with a 1-0 win on Sunday.

Yuki Muto struck in the 54th minute to give Urawa all three points at Todoroki Stadium, catapulting the Saitama side into first place two points ahead of Frontale at the halfway point of the season’s first stage.

“From start to finish we controlled the game,” said Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic. “In particular, when we lost the ball we were very quick to win it back and start attacks. I think we were worthy winners.

“Frontale have scored 18 goals in the league so far this season and they’re a very attacking team. So I’m looking forward to reading in tomorrow’s papers about why they didn’t score today or even get many chances.”

The win capped off a successful week for Urawa after booking a spot in the knockout round of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday after a 0-0 draw away to Australia’s Sydney FC.

Urawa won the J. League first stage last season without losing a single match, but Muto’s goal ensured that no team would repeat that feat this year as Frontale waved goodbye to the league’s last unbeaten record.

“We’re top of the J. League and we’re through to the next round of the ACL, so things are going well,” said Muto, who scored his third league goal of the season.

“But we won the first stage last year and still ended up winning nothing, so we don’t have anything to celebrate yet.”

Both teams looked sharp straight from the kickoff but it was Frontale who had the first clear-cut chance when Yu Kobayashi pulled a shot wide in the 24th minute.

Urawa’s Shinzo Koroki then thumped a drive against the Kawasaki post with Tadanari Lee unable to turn home the rebound, before Yusuke Tasaka missed a glorious chance to send Frontale into halftime a goal ahead when he made a mess of a Kobayashi cross in the 40th minute.

Koroki also somehow contrived to miss the target when he hit the crossbar five minutes after the restart, but Muto made no such mistake with the opening goal four minutes later.

Ryota Moriwaki sent in a cross that Lee flicked into Muto’s path, and the striker curled the ball perfectly between goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong’s outstretched dive and the inside of the post.

“I knew the ball would drop for me there and I’m confident in my abilities in that kind of situation,” said Muto. “I hit it just the way I wanted to.”

Kawasaki defender Eduardo almost gifted Urawa another goal when he forced Jung to claw away his headed back-pass in the 78th minute, and the visitors saw out the win comfortably with Frontale unable to produce a barn-storming finish.

“We played well in the first half but not so well in the second,” said Frontale manager Yahiro Kazama. “The basic problem was our judgement on the counterattack and in front of goal. We need to work on that.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Kashima Antlers, who began the day level on points with Urawa, lost ground after slumping to a 2-0 home defeat to Kashiwa Reysol.

Nigerian striker Peter Utaka hit a double to lift defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima up to fourth after a 2-1 win over Yokohama F. Marinos, while Kentaro Oi scored in the 89th minute to hand Jubilo Iwata a 1-0 victory over Sagan Tosu.

Takashi Usami was on target as Gamba Osaka beat Avispa Fukuoka 1-0, Nagoya Grampus downed Albirex Niigata 2-1, and Kazuma Watanabe snatched a 2-2 draw for Vissel Kobe against Vegalta Sendai with a goal in the 93rd minute.

Ventforet Kofu and FC Tokyo drew 1-1, and in the day’s late game, an 80th-minute Akihiro Ienaga goal gave Omiya Ardija a 1-0 win over Shonan Belmare.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.