YOKOHAMA – For Yokohama F. Marinos defender Theerathon, a season and a half was long enough of a wait.
The Thailand captain scored his first goal since arriving in the J. League last season as Yokohama notched a 3-1 win over struggling Gamba Osaka on Saturday night.
With 10 rounds remaining, both teams came to Mitsuzawa Stadium with drastically different objectives. Yokohama was looking to keep pace with league leader FC Tokyo, while Gamba was desperately hoping to expand their four-point cushion above the relegation dogfight.
Facing one of the J. League first division’s loudest atmospheres in one of its smallest grounds, Gamba chose to switch sides at kickoff and attack toward their own boisterous support.
Marinos manager Ange Postecoglou, for his part, was happy to see his squad playing on a better surface than it had experienced in recent fixtures at Nissan Stadium.
“When your home pitch was like ours for the last two games, we can’t play our (style),” Postecoglou said. “We’re forced to do things the players don’t want to. It was very disappointing because those games were important games. At home you want the advantage.
After the two sides exchanged probing attacks in the opening minutes, a pair of Gamba fouls raised tensions on the pitch as referee Ryuji Sato declined to show any early yellow cards.
Marinos started to gain the upper hand in the 25th minute, with a close-range Marcos Junior shot at the end of a sustained attack rattling the Gamba defense.
Gamba responded in the 31st minute with a counterattack that ran from end to end and across the pitch, but midfielder Yuya Fukuda was unlucky to strike the post with his shot from the left flank.
While Marcos Junior had been the driving force behind the Marinos attack for most of the first half, it was Theerathon who broke the deadlock.
The 29-year-old effortlessly received Takahiro Ogihara’s cross from the right side before unleashing a left-footed shot from the top of the penalty arc, leaving Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi pinned to his spot as the ball flew into the back of the net.
“It was great for (Theerathon),” Postecoglou said. “He’s worked really hard for us this year. He’s had to learn to play a different way.
“It’s a lot easier when you have a younger player learning a new way to play. But he’s very experienced, the captain of his country. I’m pleased for him, and it was important for us because we needed to break (the game) open.”
Yokohama ran into trouble just moments later, when Mateus was replaced by Keita Endo shortly before halftime after the Brazilian striker suffered a leg injury.
Teruhito Nakagawa drew Higashiguchi to the right side and forced the former Japan international to make a point-blank save in the 53rd minute, then centered the rebound to Marcos Junior, who had little more to do than loft the ball into the unguarded goal in order to make it 2-0.
“I thought we were in a position to tie the game up and we made substitutions to try to create that,” Gamba manager Tsuneyasu Miyamoto said. “But unfortunately they scored a third goal.”
Gamba found their way onto the board in the 67th minute as Kosuke Onose deftly dribbled behind Yokohama defender Rikuto Hirose into the penalty area before buying the ball past goalkeeper Daichi Sugimoto.
A 73rd-minute shot by Ademilson nearly tied the game, but instead bounced off the far post and was eventually cleared. Another Gamba breakaway saw Patric head home comfortably, only for the play to be called offside.
Seconds later it was time for Marinos to all but put the game away, with Nakagawa hitting the post with his shot, collecting the rebound and dishing the ball to Endo, who snuck his shot between Higashiguchi and the same far post.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Sanfrecce Hiroshima won 2-0 at Jubilo Iwata on goals by Leandro Pereira and Yoshifumi Kashiwa, while Matsumoto Yamaga and Oita Trinita battled to a scoreless draw.
Consadole Sapporo overcame a Junya Tanaka brace to defeat hosts Vissel Kobe 3-2, with Hiroki Miyazawa scoring the game-winner.
Sagan Tosu fought back late for a 2-1 win over Vegalta Sendai as Mu Kanazaki scored in the 77th and 83rd minutes.