Soccer / J. League

Two first-half goals propel Frontale past Jubilo

by Dan Orlowitz

Staff Writer

Two teams winless in their last six games stepped onto the Todoroki Stadium pitch needing a win for very different reasons.

Only one walked away happy on Saturday night.

Yasuto Wakizaka and Kazuya Yamamura outfoxed Jubilo Iwata goalkeeper Krzysztof Kaminski in the first half as Kawasaki Frontale rode their usual sold-out home crowd to a 2-0 win, taking a big step closer to the top of the J. League first-division pack in the process.

Under August managerial replacement Fernando Jubero, Jubilo Iwata arrived in Kawasaki desperate for a win that could revive their hopes of escaping last place and possibly even avoiding relegation.

“Frontale only had a few chances but they took advantage of them,” said Jubero. “It’s a poor result but we have to keep improving. We’re getting stronger and I’m happy with the attitude of the players.”

Striker Masato Nakayama thought he had scored the opener for the visitors just three minutes into the game, turning away after his shot from 15 meters out only to realize that the attempt had struck the near post and bounced back into play.

“In these three matches we haven’t won but we’ve created chances. That’s soccer,” said Jubero. “We hit the woodwork twice, so the players have to keep pushing for a goal. If we score once, it’ll become easier to score again.”

Instead the player celebrating first was Frontale midfielder Wakizaka, whose grounder from well outside the box snuck under the outstretched arms of a diving Kaminski.

With 10 minutes left before halftime, Yamamura made it 2-0 when he pounced on a rebound, narrowly slotting it off Kaminski’s fist and into the net from just meters away.

Frontale manager Toru Oniki told his players at halftime that “the third goal would be important.” They indeed set off to put the game beyond question, but after breaching Jubilo’s back line on several occasions they were stymied either by Kaminski’s clutch saves or just-off-enough aim that sent the ball just centimeters wide of the post.

Kaminski’s counterpart, Shota Arai, managed a clean sheet in his first appearance of the season — an accomplishment almost ruined when Jubilo striker Lukian struck the crossbar 20 minutes into the second half.

“(Arai) played two good games in the Levain Cup. He’s given us some momentum and that’s why I decided to use him,” Oniki said of the 30-year-old, who has mostly ridden the bench since Jung Sung-ryong took over the starting role in 2016. “He led from the back and gave the players energy.”

The result left Jubilo in last place with just 18 points — nine behind Sagan Tosu in the 16th-place promotion-relegation playoff spot and 13 behind 15th-place Urawa Reds in safety.

Oniki, enjoying Frontale’s first league win since late July, was reluctant to pin his side’s poor streak on a single cause.

“”Each game is different. Today if we’d been able to score a third goal it would have been easier (to finish out),” Oniki said. “We’ve had draws where we couldn’t score, or games where we scored first and our opponents came back, so scoring is important.”

In what was perhaps Saturday’s most crucial match, the second-place Kashima Antlers protected an early Bueno goal and added a late strike by Sergio for a 2-0 win against league leaders FC Tokyo, reducing the gap between the two teams to one point with eight rounds remaining.

After a goalless first half at Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama F. Marinos pulled ahead to a 3-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima as Teruhito Nakagawa, Teerathon and Erik found the back of the net.

Out west in Kyushu, Kazushi Mitsuhira and Kohei Isa scored in rapid succession at the end of the first half as Oita Trinita held off a late Shonan Bellmare surge to win 2-1.

David Villa’s first-half strike propelled Vissel Kobe to a 2-0 win over Matsumoto Yamaga, with Keijiro Ogawa netting the host’s second goal.

Consadole Sapporo slumped to a 3-1 loss against Vegalta Sendai at Atsubetsu Stadium, while Gamba Osaka edged out Sagan Tosu 1-0 through an 84th-minute Kazuma Watanabe header.

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