YOKOHAMA – Jubilo Iwata’s Shunsuke Nakamura returned to his old stomping grounds, but it was Yokohama F. Marinos new No. 10 Manabu Saito who provided the crucial touch in Saturday’s 2-1 win.
Former Celtic star Nakamura, who in 13 J. League seasons had only played for his boyhood club Marinos prior to joining Iwata this January, was back with his familiar silky touch. But Saito who set up both of Marinos’s goals provided evidence that he has earned the club’s iconic shirt on merit.
The dribbler was picked to play for Japan’s 2014 World Cup squad but wasn’t given a single minute on the pitch by then-coach Alberto Zaccheroni. But on Saturday, he provided a pin-point cross from the left in the 26th minute for Quenten Martinus to head home the opener.
Nakamura, for his part, showed no signs of rust to his set-piece prowess and it was no surprise his delivery from a corner played a part in Jubilo’s 34th-minute equalizer, a half-cleared ball struck home first-time by Kentaro Oi.
Saito, however, had the last laugh in an entertaining encounter after he picked out the unmarked Takashi Kanai inside the box with a chipped ball in the 73rd minute. The defender took a perfect first touch and placed the winner into the top left corner.
“Beating Jubilo is more important than getting assists and it’s a huge confidence boost,” said Saito, who was happy to show his former teammate his old side is heading in a right direction.
“I tackled him (Nakamura) firmly but apologized. Having him on the opposing team was scary, but we could show that if we stick together as a team then we can get a win. It might have been our first win in four games, but we are aiming for the title.”
Jubilo had their fair share of chances late on. Nakamura had a good one-touch play in the 79th minute before spreading the ball wide to left, but Adailton’s cross was headed narrowly over Masaya Matsumoto.
Oi had an effort from the edge of the area with five minutes to go, but his curling effort brushed the side netting as Marinos held on for the points at Nissan Stadium.
Vissel Kobe, who saw their four-game winning start to the season ended by Urawa Reds last weekend, sit top of the league with a 2-0 win away to Omiya Ardija. Omiya remain at the foot of the table after their sixth straight defeat.
Vissel have 15 points, followed by Urawa (13) which hammered Vegalta Sendai 7-0 on Friday. Reigning champion Kashima Antlers (12) suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Cerezo Osaka.
Kawasaki Frontale salvaged a late point at home to Ventforet Kofu after canceling out the visitors’ injury-time opener in a frantic finish.
FC Tokyo squandered a chance to close the gap at the top of the table, allowing promoted Consadole Sapporo to come from behind at home and win 2-1.
Shimizu S-Pulse claimed a 2-0 away win at Kashiwa Reysol, while Sagan Tosu eased to a 3-0 home win over struggling Albirex Niigata, another side without a win.