KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Naoki Wako scored an 86th-minute header to give Kashiwa Reysol a roller-coaster 3-2 win over Avispa Fukuoka on Saturday.
Reysol looked to be in complete control after Kosuke Taketomi had given them a sixth-minute lead at Hitachi Stadium, only for Avispa to stun the home side with two goals from Takahiro Kunimoto and Hisashi Jogo within the space of three second-half minutes.
But the tide turned again when Diego Oliveira brought Kashiwa level with an equalizer in the 80th minute, before midfielder Wako got on the end of a Junya Ito cross to secure all three points for the Chiba side with four minutes remaining.
“We played really well in the first half and scored an early goal, but then we fell behind,” said Brazilian forward Oliveira. “But we all stayed together and kept running, and this win is the result of that.
“In football, you have to take your chances when they come. If we had taken all our chances in the first half, it would have been a much more comfortable game, but we just have to go back to training and work hard to raise the level of our finishing.”
Reysol currently sit fifth in the J. League table despite a troubled start to the season that saw manager Milton Mendes walk out after just three games.
Replacement Takahiro Shimotaira proceeded to lead a youthful Kashiwa side up the table on the back of a five-game winning run, but the manager acknowledges that his team is still far from the finished article.
“We played our best football of the season in the first half but then we conceded two goals on the counterattack,” said Shimotaira, who has taken 21 points from his 10 games in charge. “We’re still a little green as a team.
“But we managed to pull ourselves together just as it looked like we were falling apart and got the equalizer. Then the crowd helped us score the winner. To be perfectly honest, I feel relieved.”
Reysol were just too hot for Avispa to handle in the game’s opening stages, and it was little surprise when Taketomi gave them an early lead. Oliveira teed the ball up perfectly into Taketomi’s path, and the 25-year-old drilled his shot past Avispa goalkeeper Lee Bum-young.
Lee had to be at full stretch to tip over a Jiro Kamata header in the 19th minute, before the woodwork came to Avispa’s rescue when Oliveira crashed a shot off the underside of the bar five minutes later.
Oliveira hit the post and Hiroto Nakagawa forced a point-blank save from Lee as Reysol pushed hard for a second goal before halftime, but their failure to take their chances soon came back to haunt them.
First Kunimoto drove through the Kashiwa defense before unleashing a left-foot shot to pull Avispa level. Then Kunimoto turned provider as he sent in a cross that Jogo eventually bundled over to give the visitors an unlikely lead three minutes later.
“Kunimoto is young but he’s dangerous in attack, changes the rhythm and has a good shot,” Avispa manager Masami Ihara said of the 18-year-old midfielder. “He’s young but he’s a player I’m looking forward to seeing more of.”
Avispa substitute Shoki Hirai had the chance to kill the game off only to hit the post in the 77th minute. Oliveira took full advantage of the miss, barrelling through the Fukuoka defense before lashing a shot home to bring Kashiwa level.
Wako then put the seal on a topsy-turvy game when he headed beyond Lee’s reach, denying Avispa manager Ihara a point on his return to the club where he cut his coaching teeth as Reysol’s assistant and caretaker manager.
“We were chasing shadows in the first half,” said Japan’s 1998 World Cup captain, whose 17th-placed team has taken nine points from 12 games. “It wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had scored three.
“But in the second half we got ourselves in front, and although we ended up losing, if we can play the way we played in the second half for the full 90 minutes, we can be a match for any team.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Kawasaki Frontale stayed top of the table after a 0-0 draw with Albirex Niigata, while Ciao scored in the 95th minute to send Kashima Antlers into second, one point behind Frontale, with a 3-2 win over Nagoya Grampus.
Third-place Urawa Reds — two points behind Frontale — have two games in hand over both the teams above them.
Omiya Ardija stayed fourth after an Ataru Esaka goal gave them a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu, while Gamba Osaka moved up to sixth with a 3-1 victory over champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Veteran defender Yuzo Kurihara scored the winner as Yokohama F. Marinos beat Vissel Kobe 1-0 to snap a five-game winless streak, Jubilo Iwata beat Ventforet Kofu 3-1, and Shonan Bellmare stayed bottom of the table after a 1-0 loss to Vegalta Sendai.