KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. - Kashima Antlers keeper Kwoun Sun-tae saved a penalty, allowing the hosts to draw 0-0 at home with J-League first-division leaders Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday.
The draw moved Frontale, the defending champions, a point clear at the top of the table ahead of Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Yu Kobayashi, Frontale’s top scorer with 14 goals, drew the penalty in front of Antlers’ goal in the 36th minute. Getting a pass from Elsinho, Kobayashi rounded defender Jung Seung Hyun. As the two tussled, Jung was charged with wrestling Kobayashi to the ground.
Kobayashi took the kick and shot just inside the right post, but Kwoun anticipated, dove to his left and delivered the save.
“I’ve been working hard in practice. Today was a must-win game, and so my concentration was at a very high level and he hit it the way I expected,” Kwoun said.
“We still have our sights set on the championship, but to get there we’re going to have to do much better and prepare well.”
Antlers head coach Go Oiwa revealed that he had hoped to take the initiative after the interval.
“Our plan was to flip the switch in the second half and push forward,” Oiwa said. “We created opportunities, but unfortunately couldn’t score.”
In addition to a shot at the league title, Antlers also have an Asian Champions League semifinal on their plate. They will take a 3-2 lead into the return leg at South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings on Oct. 24.
Antlers, are in third place on 46 points, trailing Frontale by 11 with five games remaining. FC Tokyo are fourth, also on 46 points, after their first league victory in over two months, a 2-1 win at Nagoya Grampus.
Elsewhere, Urawa Reds drew 1-1 at Vegalta Sendai, while braces from Koya Kitagawa and Douglas boosted Shimizu S-Pulse to a 5-1 home win over Jubilo Iwata in the Shizuoka derby.