KASHIMA, IBARAKI PREF. – Ten days after their bid for back-to-back Asian titles came crashing down, the Kashima Antlers were spared another disappointing result on Saturday when Serginho’s 50th-minute equalizer earned them a 1-1 draw against visiting Consadole Sapporo.
The Antlers started the day with 51 points, one behind league-leading FC Tokyo, which plays Sunday.
Trailing 1-0 after an early Ryosuke Shindo strike at Kashima Stadium, Serginho bullied his away around a defender before scoring to complete a brilliant three-phase counterattack.
Shoma Doi won possession from the visitors in their own half and chipped forward to midfielder Kei Koizumi, who managed to lay off to Serginho while being tackled on the edge of the area.
With no clear path to the goal, the Brazilian kept control and shoved his defender aside before chipping ‘keeper Gu Sung-yun with his next step. The South Korean had come off his line to help, but only succeeded in taking himself out of the play.
“It was all about timing,” Serginho said. “I had my eye on the keeper the whole time.”
The visitors had struck in the 11th minute when the Antlers repeatedly failed to clear the ball, giving midfielder Kensuke Shirai three consecutive chances to find a soft spot in the defense with crosses from the right touchline.
The third time proved a charm. With two defenders between him and the right post, Chanathip Songkrasin let Shirai’s cross roll past him to Shindo on his left. Expecting Chanathip to shoot, the Antlers were totally unprepared for Shindo, who buried his shot into the opposite side of the goal.
With the seconds ticking down, the Antlers laid siege to Gu’s goal, but could not score a winner.
Elsewhere, Kenyu Sugimoto spared Urawa Reds more blushes with a 97th-minute equalizer at relegation-threatened Sagan Tosu. On Wednesday, the Reds were knocked out of the Emperor’s Cup 2-0 at home by corporate side Honda FC.
Cerezo Osaka crushed Gamba 3-1 in the Osaka derby, with the visitors’ only score coming on a 92nd-minute own goal.
Two-time defending champion Kawasaki Frontale lost 2-1 at home to Vissel Kobe, while Kosuke Yamamoto completed his brace in second-half injury time to earn last-place Jubilo Iwata a crucial three points in a 2-1 win at Oita Trinita.
Yokohama F. Marinos were minutes away from moving a point behind the Antlers and FC Tokyo when Katsuya Nagato’s 89th-minute equalizer salvaged a 1-1 draw for Vegalta in Sendai. In Hiroshima, Sanfrecce and visiting Nagoya Grampus also finished 1-1.
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