• Kyodo


First-division returnee Matsumoto Yamaga made life hard on title-chasing Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday, holding the two-time defending champions to a scoreless draw.

Content to let Frontale control the ball for most of the game, the visitors frustrated their opponents’ efforts to create space in the attacking third.

Yamaga, however, nearly scored twice on the counter through Serginho. In the 35th minute, the Brazilian forward gained possession in his own half and penetrated to the edge of the penalty area before pulling back a pass for compatriot Paulinho. The Yamaga marksman’s long-range missile forced a diving save from keeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Jung was put to the test again in the 54th minute, when he needed to make a diving block on a Serginho free kick.

Unfortunately, the Brazilian limped off the pitch in the 79th minute, spelling the end to the visitors’ chance at three points. But his departure did not brighten Frontale’s prospects as they remained unable to break down Yamaga’s defense.

“We prepared for a game like this during the week, knowing that we would give away a lot of possession,” Yamaga manager Yasuharu Sorimachi said. “We have to look at this point in a positive light. We are confident in our defense and were happy to let Kawasaki have the ball.”

“Although we are underpowered right now (on attack), the fighting posture we assumed was something I could really be happy with.”

The draw with their relegation-threatened opponents left Frontale six points behind J1 leaders FC Tokyo, and equal on 39 points with third-place Yokohama F Marinos. Kashima Antlers are another point further back in fourth place. Yamaga, playing in their second J1 season and their first since 2015, are 16th in the 18-team J1.

In Sunday’s other games, Nagoya Grampus drew 2-2 at Urawa Reds, while Oita Trinita drew their Kyushu derby at Sagan Tosu by the same score.

At Saitama Stadium, Takahiro Sekine’s injury time equalizer earned a point for Reds, while Mu Kanazaki did the same for Sagan in the 90th minute.

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