• Kyodo


Kawasaki Frontale missed a chance to reclaim top spot from the idle Urawa Reds in the J. League first division on Wednesday after a being held to a 1-1 draw at home against Vegalta Sendai.

Shingo Tomita headed plucky Sendai into the lead after 70 minutes before a fine solo effort from Ryota Oshima salvaged a point for Yahiro Kazama’s side.

The result left Kawasaki one point behind Reds, whose game away to Gamba Osaka was rescheduled for June 15 due to their involvement in the Asian Champions League. Sendai, which has not won in the league since edging Kashima Antlers 1-0 at home on March 12, is second-from-bottom with eight points.

“Today was really disappointing,” said Kazama. “I changed the system in the second half to try and fire us up a bit but there were not enough players out there trying to show what they were capable of doing.”

Star striker Yoshito Okubo added, “We had big chances and couldn’t convert them, and that is a problem. That is all I have to say on the matter.”

In warm and windy conditions at Todoroki Stadium, woeful Frontale defending presented Sendai with a couple of early opportunities before Kentaro Moriya tested Sendai goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan with a low drive at his near post.

Rokutan then got down to save bravely at the feet of Okubo and his Kawasaki counterpart Jung Sung-ryong dived low to his left to push behind a long-range free kick by Takuya Nozawa in the 18th minute.

Jung came to Kawasaki’s rescue with a key block to deny Jun Kanakubo just after the half-hour mark, with Kanakubo being shown a yellow card for a foul on the South Korean ‘keeper.

Kawasaki twice had the ball in the net, but efforts in the 36th minute from Yu Kobayashi and Kengo Nakamura on the stroke of halftime were both ruled out for offside.

Sendai enjoyed a good spell of pressure at the start of the second half and Kanakubo fired a great chance wide on 54 minutes. Sendai deservedly went in front with 20 minutes left, with Tomita powering home Nozawa’s cross.

Sendai’s joy proved short-lived, however, as Oshima made space for himself and cut in from the right to blast his shot past Rouktan from a tight angle.

Sendai coach Susumu Watanabe tried to put a positive spin on the result.

“Obviously we wanted to take all three points and take a step forward, but we’ll take the positives from getting a point away going into our next game against Avispa Fukuoka,” he said.

Tomita said conceding so soon after going in front has become a problem that Sendai needs to fix if it is to climb up the table.

“That has been continuing since last year . . . we are not going to be able to get three points unless we resolve issues like that,” he said.

“Three points would have been best. A draw at a team like Kawasaki, to take home a point is no small achievement, but if we don’t build on this then it will mean nothing.”

In other games, Kashima moved within a point of Frontale, Daigo Nishi hitting a late winner in a 2-1 victory at home to Albirex Niigata, and Leandro bagged a brace as Vissel Kobe thrashed Jubilo Iwata 4-1.

Shuhei Otsuki earned struggling Shonan Belllmare a 1-0 win at Sagan Tosu, Robin Simovic scored his seventh goal of the season — his fourth in as many league games — to put Nagoya Grampus on the way to a 3-1 win over visiting Yokohama F. Marinos.

Keigo Numata hit the winner as Omiya Ardija edged Fukuoka 2-1 at Level-5 Stadium and Diego Oliveira scored twice as resurgent Kashiwa Reysol beat Ventforet Kofu 2-0 away to make it five league wins in a row.

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