Kashima Antlers were held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Levain Cup quarterfinal against Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday.
In a fractious match during which referee Jumpei Iida dealt out seven yellow cards, Antlers opened scoring in the 19th minute when Yasushi Endo trapped a long ball down the left side and crossed to the far post for Daigo Nishi to head it over the goal line.
It took Manabu Saito two adventures into the penalty area to set up the equalizer, a penalty kick from Kei Chinen.
Ten minutes after Nishi’s score, Saito charged forward with a defender on his heels and another closing in on him from the side. As soon as he entered the penalty area, he flopped theatrically, but Iida wasn’t buying it.
Saito had better luck in the 32nd minute, however, when 21-year-old defender Koki Machida hooked the Frontale midfielder’s right leg with a poorly timed tackle. Chinen then fired home, and the teams went into the half all even.
The hosts dodged a hail of bullets in the 82nd minute. Within the span of 30 seconds two shots hit the post, one was blocked by keeper Hitoshi Sogahata and yet another was cleared off the line by a defender.
In Wednesday’s other first-leg matches, Shonan Bellmare thumped cup holders Cerezo Osaka 3-0 at home, while a brace from Sho Ito allowed Yokohama F. Marinos to cruise to a 4-0 win at Gamba Osaka. Kashiwa Reysol drew 2-2 at second-division Ventforet Kofu thanks to an 85th-minute equalizer from Brazilian striker Cristiano, who is currently on loan from Ventforet.
The return legs are set for Sunday evening.