KAWASAKI – Kawasaki Frontale stayed top of the J. League table after an 88th-minute own goal by defender Daiki Ogawa handed them a 1-0 win over Jubilo Iwata on Sunday.
Frontale looked to be heading to their second straight scoreless draw at Todoroki Stadium until Ogawa, under pressure from Japan striker Yu Kobayashi, turned the ball into his own net to give the home side a dramatic victory.
The result kept Frontale one point ahead of Kashima Antlers, who beat Ventforet Kofu 4-0, and four clear of Urawa Reds, who drew 0-0 with Sagan Tosu. Reds have two games in hand on both Frontale and Antlers.
“We didn’t play so well from the start but the players hung in there and kept going until the end,” said Frontale manager Yahiro Kazama. “I think we should have scored more goals tonight but the main thing is that we won. I hope the players can take confidence from that.”
Jubilo welcomed prolific striker Jay Bothroyd back to the starting lineup after a month and a half out with a sprained ankle. But the Englishman was unable to make an impact before being substituted in the 60th minute.
“I felt good, it was nice to be back,” said Bothroyd, who scored six goals in five games prior to his injury. “I’m disappointed in the result but I think we can take a lot of positives from the game.
“I was disappointed to come off but this is football and every footballer that gets substituted feels disappointed when they come off. I think it was sensible at the end of the day and I’m looking forward to the next game now.”
Frontale striker Yoshito Okubo wasted little time in introducing himself to the Jubilo defense with two early scoring chances, the first of which saw him denied in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Naoki Hatta.
“I had a big chance after five minutes, and if I had taken that it would have been an easy game,” said Okubo, who has scored nine league goals this season. “So to actually come away with the three points is a big deal.”
Hatta earned himself a yellow card when he came charging out of his box to flatten Okubo minutes before halftime, and Frontale almost made him pay when Shogo Taniguchi headed against the crossbar from the resulting free kick.
Frontale kept up the pressure after the break, with Elsinho going close with a shot from distance and Taniguchi flashing a header just wide of the post.
Okubo drilled another shot fractionally off target as the home side continued to turn the screw, before the three-time J1 top scorer went agonizingly close to turning home a Kobayashi cross in the 75th minute.
But Kobayashi forced the issue with just two minutes remaining, pressuring Ogawa into his fatal error as he tried to deal with Elsinho’s cross into the box.
“We’re not there yet,” said Jubilo manager Hiroshi Nanami. “Kawasaki put us under a lot of pressure but we didn’t hide and we stood up to them. That’s something we can take from today’s game.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, Yokohama F. Marinos continued their recent upturn in form with a 3-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol, while defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima also hit the goal trail in a 4-0 thrashing of Avispa Fukuoka.
Vissel Kobe came from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw with Omiya Ardija, Vegalta Sendai beat Albirex Niigata 4-2, and Ryoichi Maeda scored in the 80th minute to give FC Tokyo a 1-0 win over Gamba Osaka.
In the day’s other game, Daisuke Kikuchi notched the winner as Shonan Bellmare beat Nagoya Grampus 2-1.