SAITAMA – Shunsuke Nakamura scored a trademark free kick and Kengo Kawamata also hit the target as Jubilo Iwata beat Omiya Ardija 2-1 on Saturday to claim their first win of the J. League season.
Former Celtic playmaker Nakamura, who joined Jubilo from Yokohama F. Marinos over the winter, staked his new team to a fifth-minute lead before Kawamata, who also arrived over the offseason from Nagoya Grampus, doubled the advantage two minutes into the second half.
Omiya substitute Shintaro Shimizu pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute to set up a tense finale at Nack 5 Stadium, but Jubilo held on for their first win, having opened the new season with a draw and a defeat.
“It’s a big step for me,” said Nakamura, who signed a two-year deal with Jubilo at the age of 38. “Although I scored the goal, it was my teammates who won the foul so really it was everyone’s goal. It was at the start of the game so it was difficult, but I’m glad it went in.
“(Jubilo manager Hiroshi) Nanami has said that I am capable of changing the flow of the game with one moment and that was maybe true today. But I’d like to do more to control the game than just score free kicks.”
Jubilo failed to score in their opening two games of the season — a 0-0 draw with Cerezo Osaka and 1-0 defeat to Vegalta Sendai — but Nanami was pleased to see his two main offseason signings open their accounts for the club.
“It will be a relief for both players that they managed to score so soon after joining, and it’s good for the team as well,” said Nanami.
“But one thing that we regret about this match is the goal that we conceded. Since we started training for the new season on Jan. 14, we have worked six or seven times on defending from throw-ins. So it was very wasteful and unprofessional for us to concede from one today.”
Shimizu’s goal belatedly sparked an ineffectual Omiya into life for the final 15 minutes, but the Saitama side could not find an equalizer and remained on zero points after three straight losses.
“Nakamura is a special player when it comes to free kicks and maybe we couldn’t have done anything about that,” said Omiya manager Hiroki Shibuya. “But we shouldn’t have given him the chance so early in the game and the second goal came just minutes into the second half as well. It ruined our game plan.
“We’ve lost our opening three games and we need to accept that reality. But the players are doing everything to turn things around and training is very positive. We need to keep that going and improve our game.”
A foul on Fozil Musaev on the edge of the box gave Jubilo an early chance from a free kick, and midfielder Yoshiaki Ota was fooling no one when he shaped to take it. The set piece had Nakamura’s name written all over it, and the veteran duly curled his shot around the wall and past goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato.
Jubilo continued to dominate and Kawamata doubled the visitors’ lead two minutes into the second half. A speculative ball forward sent the striker into a wrestling match with Omiya defender Kosuke Kikuchi, and Kawamata emerged with the ball before dispatching it past Kato.
“I could hear the fans chanting my name and that gave me power,” said Kawamata. “But I had chances to score two or three more today and the fact that I didn’t is what I need to work on.”
With Jubilo seemingly cruising toward a comprehensive win, however, Ardija suddenly pulled a goal back. Shigeru Yokotani sent in a cross from the left, and Shimizu headed it home.
But Omiya failed to find an equalizer despite laying siege to the Jubilo goal for the rest of the game, as Yuko Iwakami shot wide and Iwata goalkeeper Krzysztof Kaminski denied Shimizu from a late chance.
“Shunsuke scored a beautiful goal from the free kick and I’m happy that Kengo scored his first goal for Jubilo,” said Kaminski. “I hope he will be more relaxed in the next game and we can’t wait to play again.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, promoted Consadole Sapporo picked up their first point of the campaign after a 1-1 draw with Cerezo Osaka, while a 44th-minute goal from Riki Harakawa gave Sagan Tosu a 1-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Shimizu S-Pulse claimed their second straight win, 2-0 over Albirex Niigata, and Vissel Kobe beat Vegalta Sendai 2-0 to make it four wins out of four while also ending Vegalta’s perfect record.
In the day’s late game, Gamba Osaka beat FC Tokyo — also previously perfect — 3-0.
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