HIROSHIMA – Leandro struck twice as Kashima Antlers bounced back from their midweek Asian Champions League exit, beating struggling Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-1 away in the J. League on Sunday in their first match under new manager Go Oiwa.
Atsutaka Nakamura opened the scoring for the reigning champions on 14 minutes at Edion Stadium and then set up Leandro for the second before the Brazilian midfielder made it 3-0 just before the break.
Sanfrecce dominated the second half but Anderson Lopes’ 67th-minute effort was all they had to show for it.
“We went into the second half with a 3-0 lead so I thought we might be reactive and that is the way it turned out,” said Oiwa, who was promoted from assistant coach to manager following Masatada Ishii’s dismissal on Wednesday.
“Hiroshima put a lot of pressure on us (but) my players showed a lot of heart and expressed on the pitch what I asked of them.”
Antlers improved to 24 points from 13 matches, six points off the pace of Kashiwa Reysol, who defeated Urawa Reds 1-0 at home for their eighth consecutive victory, Hiroto Nakagawa nodding in the lone goal during first-half injury time. Urawa is seven points out of first.
Antlers beat China’s Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 on Tuesday in the second leg of the ACL round of 16 but they were eliminated on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
Nakamura set the wheels in motion for Sunday’s win, picking up a pass from Shoma Doi and firing Kashima into the lead. The 26-year-old then went close to doubling the visitors’ advantage, his shot coming back off the post and into the arms of Hiroshima goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi.
Kashima keeper Kwoun Sun-tae produced a good stop at the other end to deny Kosei Shibasaki and Leandro made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark, taking a return pass from Nakamura and lashing a left-footed effort inside the near post.
Ryota Nagaki capitalized on sloppy defending and set up Leandro to poke home his second in the 43rd minute.
Hiroshima deservedly pulled a goal back midway through the second half, when Toshihiro Aoyama’s headed pass set up Lopes to clip home from close range. But Hajime Moriyasu’s side remain in the relegation zone with just 10 points from 14 matches.
In other games, Cerezo Osaka climbed to second place on 28 points after a 4-0 win against visiting Albirex Niigata, Brazilian midfielder Souza rounding off the win four minutes from time.
Cerezo have won their last four, while Niigata dropped to the bottom of the table as Omiya Ardija picked up a point in a 1-1 home draw to Sagan Tosu.
Cerezo’s local rivals, Gamba Osaka, lost 3-0 away to Jubilo Iwata, who got a brace from Kengo Kawamata. Yokohama F. Marinos defeated Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 at home in the Kanagawa derby.
Nilton grabbed a 90th-minute winner as Vissel Kobe edged Consadole Sapporo 2-1 away, while a double from Yoshito Okubo earned FC Tokyo a 2-0 win at Shimizu S-Pulse, its first in four games.
North Korean midfielder Ryang Yong-gi’s late effort sealed a 3-0 win for Vegalta Sendai at home to Ventforet Kofu.
The top flight shuts down for the international break and resumes June 17-18.