KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. - Yuto Misao scored a freak own goal to gift FC Tokyo a shock 1-0 win away against the defending champion Kashima Antlers on the opening day of the J. League season on Saturday.
Misao, a preseason signing from Shonan Bellmare, bundled over the line with eight minutes left on a day when Yokohama F. Marinos became only the second team after Antlers to reach 400 wins in the top flight by edging Urawa Reds 3-2 at home.
In a first half of few highlights at Kashima Stadium, Yoshito Okubo went close at the near post for FC Tokyo and another new Tokyo signing Kensuke Nagai was inches away from connecting with Keigo Higashi’s cross.
Okubo missed a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring on 59 minutes, blazing over a flick from Nagai and that nearly proved costly as Pedro Junior raced up the other end to bring a crucial save out of FC Tokyo keeper Akihiro Hayashi.
But Tokyo, which had been the better team for much of the second half, won it when Misao prodded into his own net after Kashima ‘keeper Kwoun Sun-tae could only parry a tame shot from Tokyo substitute Shoya Nakajima.
“It was fantastic that we won and we will be looking to keep it up but I think both the team and myself can play better,” midfielder Nakajima said.
“My shot (that led to the own goal) was not great and I need to keep on practicing.”
Tokyo’s win came after Kashima won the season curtain-raising Super Cup 3-2 against Urawa and then beat Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 at home in the Asian Champions League in midweek.
“More than the performance I am happy that we got the three points,” said Tokyo’s Japan international defender Masato Morishige. “We were playing against strong opponents, as they showed today, but we showed to a gritty determination not to be second best throughout the 90 minutes.”
At Nissan Stadium, Reds looked to be heading for three points as new signing Rafael Silva, on target in midweek in a 4-0 ACL thrashing of Western Sydney Wanderers, struck twice in the space of two second-half minutes to his side 2-1 ahead.
But Portuguese striker Hugo Vieira opened his Marinos account to equalize with four minutes left before substitute Naoki Maeda swept home the winner in the second minute of injury time after good work from new team captain Manabu Saito.
“Manabu gave me a great ball and it was simply a case of me putting it away,” Maeda said. “We just have to keep this momentum going.”
In other games, Wataru Hashimoto gave Vissel Kobe a 1-0 win away to top-flight returnees Shimizu S-Pulse and Naoki Ishihara struck the winner as Vegalta Sendai beat promoted Consadole Sapporo by the same scoreline.
Tatsuya Tanaka earned Albirex Niigata a 1-1 draw away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Kosuke Taketomi sealed a 3-1 win for Kashiwa Reysol away to Sagan Tosu.
Kawasaki Frontale beat Omiya Ardija 2-0 away behind goals from Yu Kobayashi and Kengo Nakamura, while Cerezo Osaka and Jubilo Iwata played out a goalless draw at Yanmar Stadium. Gamba Osaka host Ventforet Kofu on Sunday.