YOKOHAMA – Kenta Nishizawa struck early in the second half as Shimizu S-Pulse upset high-flying Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 on Saturday.
Ange Postecoglou’s men came into the clash at a sweltering Nissan Stadium on a three-game winning streak, three points behind league-leading FC Tokyo in second place.
The visitors, in contrast, were on the cusp of the relegation zone having lost three of their past four league outings.
While Marinos had the bulk of first-half possession, S-Pulse created a number of chances as they looked to expose their opponent’ shigh defensive line with probing counterattacks.
Yokohama, meanwhile, lacked attacking incision playing without Edigar Junio, the league’s top scorer who is expected to be sidelined for three months following surgery on his left leg.
Lone striker Douglas was in the thick of the action for Yoshiyuki Shinoda’s side, harassing the defense with his runs inside the final third.
The Brazilian fired over the bar midway through the half after the ball spilled to him in front of goal off a blocked attempt by Shota Kaneko.
Douglas continued applying pressure in the second half, hitting the post after a storming run into the left of the box in the 48th minute.
Shimizu took the lead just two minutes later after Renato Augusto dispossessed Marcos Junior near halfway and tapped the ball to Yosuke Kawai, who played a quick through-ball to Nishizawa.
Entering the area from the top left, the 22-year-old midfielder finished calmly to beat Marinos goalkeeper Park Il-gyu, who had been caught off his line.
Douglas missed a chance to double the lead in the 52nd minute, firing just wide under pressure from the middle of the area.
Marinos came within inches of an equalizer in the 73rd minute when Keita Endo’s deflected shot bounced off the crossbar from close range.
Recent Japan-call-up Koji Miyoshi blew a late chance to draw level, blasting over the bar from the middle area after entering as a second-half substitute.
Despite the loss, Postecoglou praised his side for its effort.
“The players gave everything, they worked hard and created chances. It just wasn’t our day,” the former Australian national team manager said.
In other first-division games, FC Tokyo moved further ahead at the top of the table with a 3-0 victory over visiting Cerezo Osaka.
The Kashima Antlers dropped out of the top three after losing 3-2 away to Shonan Bellmare on an injury-time goal to Keisuke Saka. The result saw the Asian Champions relinquish third place to Kawasaki Frontale on goal difference.
Vegalta Sendai scored twice in the first eight minutes before holding on to defeat Jubilo Iwata 2-1 at Yurtec Stadium.
At Edion Stadium Hiroshima, Sho Inagaki netted the winner in the 49th minute as Sanfrecce Hiroshima beat Consadole Sapporo 1-0.