SHIZUOKA – Shimizu S-Pulse fended off a persistent attack by visiting Vegalta Sendai for a 1-1 draw in the J. League first division on Sunday.
Shimizu midfielder Shota Kaneko opened the scoring in the ninth minute, soaring a screamer over the head of Vegalta goalkeeper Kentaro Seki from well outside the box. Despite a massive leap, Seki couldn’t lay a hand on the ball as it pounded into the top left corner.
“It was my first shot and I wanted to give it all I had,” Kaneko said of his second goal of the season after contributing to Shimizu’s 4-2 win over Vissel Kobe on March 3.
A solid defense kept Vegalta at bay until the 70th minute at IAI Stadium Nihondaira, when a shot from Takuma Nishimura brought Shimizu keeper Yuji Rokutan out to make a sliding leg save.
The ball, however, rolled in front of Rokutan, where Shimizu striker Takuma Abe collected it, rounded the grounded keeper and fired home between three defenders.
After aggressive counterattacks from both teams in injury time bore no fruit, the teams were left to share the spoils. The draw left both teams on eight points with Shimizu ahead on goal difference.
“We were good, disciplined and kept good shape. (But) I don’t think we were good enough, (or) played well enough to deserve the three points, S-Pulse manager Jan Jonsson said.
“It was quite an even game, so I am not disappointed with the result, but I am disappointed in that, technically, I want us to play a little better.”
Kaneko echoed those concerns, saying, “After we scored that first goal, we needed to maintain possession a bit more. We needed to move the ball around a bit more.
“Ninety minutes is tough, especially because Sendai was able to control the ball. We were lucky to get away with a point today.”
In other games, all-time leading J1 scorer Yoshito Okubo struck in the 65th minute to lift Kawasaki Frontale to a 1-0 win at Nagoya Grampus. The win puts the reigning champs top of the table after four games of the season.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima were held 0-0 at home by Jubilo Iwata.
Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers held on for a 1-0 win at Sagan Tosu, while braces from Kashiwa Reysol midfielder Ataru Esaka and Gamba Osaka striker Hwang Ui-jo forced a 2-2 draw at Suita Stadium, ending the visitors’ three-game losing streak.
Thai midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin headed home the injury-time winner, lifting Consadole Sapporo to their first win, a 2-1 victory at home that left V-Varen Nagasaki searching for their first J1 win.
FC Tokyo beat Shonan Bellmare 1-0 at home for the hosts’ first win, while Hugo Viera’s 81st-minute strike lifted Yokohama F. Marinos to a 1-0 victory at winless Urawa Reds. Lukas Podolski sealed a 2-0 home win for Vissel Kobe against Cerezo Osaka.