OSAKA – Yuma Suzuki and Shoma Doi scored second-half goals in quick succession Wednesday night in the Kashima Antlers’ 2-0 win away to Cerezo Osaka.
The victory at Yanmar Stadium lifted Kashima up three places to seventh on the J. League table, but it may have come at a heavy cost following the loss of star defender Gen Shoji to an ankle injury late in the first half.
Shoji, whose performance at the World Cup in Russia was a revelation for the Samurai Blue, hobbled from the field after sliding to block a shot from winger Kota Mizunuma in the 41st minute.
Following a first half in which Cerezo created greater attacking opportunities, Suzuki broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with an outstanding individual goal.
Running onto a pass in the center circle, the striker split two opponents with his first touch before outsprinting defender Tatsuya Yamashita to the edge of the box and deftly chipping ‘keeper Kim Jin-hyeon.
Doi doubled the lead three minutes later, beating Kim at the near post after lunging to meet a Koki Machida cross.
Suzuki, who scored a brace in Kashima’s 6-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday, brought his season tally to seven with the highlight goal.
“There were some tough moments, but thankfully we pulled through and I was able to score,” the 22-year-old forward said. “We kept a clean sheet, which was down to us being in synch as a team.”
With his side down two goals and time running out, Cerezo manager Yoon Jong-hwan looked to shake things up by introducing midfielder Souza in the 77th minute.
The move almost paid off immediately, with the Brazilian winning possession in the lead-up to an apparent 78th-minute goal from substitute Kazuya Yamamura.
The goal was waved away, however, with Kenyu Sugimoto ruled offside moments before Yamamura found the back of the net.