Soccer / J. League

Reysol, Sagan play to 1-1 draw

by Dan Orlowitz

Staff Writer

Two teams arrived at Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium in desperate need of a win on Saturday afternoon, and neither found what they were looking for as Kashiwa Reysol and Sagan Tosu battled to a 1-1 draw in the first of the day’s J. League action.

Gamba Osaka’s 2-1 win at Shimizu S-Pulse on Friday night added some urgency to the affair, with both Tosu and Kashiwa entering the day tied at 29 points in 16th and 17th place respectively, trailing Yokohama F. Marinos on goal difference in the first-division table.

Despite the presence of retired Spain international Fernando Torres in the starting lineup for Tosu and recent Japan call-up Junya Ito on the opposite side, the first half featured little action of note until Yosuke Segawa drove in Ryuta Koike’s cross from close range into an empty net.

The energy level at the sold-out ground ramped up after Mu Kanazaki headed in the game-tying goal in the 52nd minute, adding a splash of intensity that both teams admitted was lacking in the first half.

“It was a very tactical first half and neither team had many chances,” Sagan manager Massimo Ficcadenti said after the match. “But (in the second half) we created good chances and (Shuichi Gonda) had two great saves.”

Away fans can credit Gonda’s stops in the 88th minute for their team being able to take a point back to Kyushu: the recent Samurai Blue reserve delivered the play of the match in stopping a Cristiano shot that bounced strangely off a defender before denying Reysol substitute Ryohei Yamazaki from close range just moments later.

“We’re fighting to avoid relegation so even one point is important, but we need to maintain this momentum at Consadole Sapporo next week or it won’t mean anything,” Gonda reflected after the match.

Torres, who came off in the 73rd minute for veteran striker Yohei Toyoda, regretted that two of his headers failed to reach their target.

“The first one was a really good cross, but I didn’t hit it well. I hit it very low and the bounce was soft. For the second, I didn’t arrive (in time),” the former Atletico Madrid star said, refusing to blame the weather for his team’s slow start.

“It was hot for both teams. I think (Reysol) were better in the first half, and in the second half we improved. There were times when we were on top of them but a draw was fair.”

Although both supporters offered muted reactions after the final whistle, the two managers seemed content to share the result, which lifted both teams above Gamba, who now sit in 17th, on goal difference.

“This was a match we couldn’t afford to lose and the players started well,” said Reysol manager Nozomu Kato. “With so many supporters cheering for them, they played to win until the final whistle.

“I think the players got the message (I sent with my substitutions), and we need to use today’s performance as a base and build up our attack. We need to keep playing with this sense of urgency.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, J1 leader Sanfrecce Hiroshima drew 1-1 against third-place FC Tokyo, which is now winless in its last seven league matches. Sanfrecce’s lead above Kawasaki Frontale was reduced to four points after the defending champions handily won 3-1 over Nagoya Grampus at home.

Yokohama F. Marinos jumped to 12th with a 2-1 win at Jubilo Iwata, while V-Varen Nagasaki rose to within four points of safety after emerging the 1-0 victor over Vegalta Sendai, which dropped to fifth. Struggling Shonan Bellmare saw their hopes for a big win dashed when Cerezo Osaka equalized deep into stoppage time of their 1-1 draw.