Soccer / J. League

Matsumoto Yamaga hold league-leading Kashima Antlers to draw

Kyodo

Matsumoto Yamaga earned a 1-1 home draw against the league-leading Kashima Antlers on Friday night.

Using their strong defense to stymie one of the league’s top-scoring sides, Yamaga scored first before the Antlers equalized on a penalty. Although the hosts remain 17th in the 18-team J1, it was their second draw against a top club in three games after a scoreless Sept. 29 clash against then-leader FC Tokyo.

In a steady rain at Sunpro Alwin, Ryo Nagai looked as surprised as anyone after scoring with his back to the goal in the ninth minute. A teammate’s shot from beyond the arc deflected off his right instep, through his legs and in.

After a pair of innocuous penalties against the visitors gave Yamaga a free kick in their opponents’ half, Antlers ‘keeper Kwoun Sun-ta punched away a long-range missile off the boot of Brazilian striker Serginho. Defender Masaki Iida’s header off the resulting corner was blocked and came out to Ryo Takahashi, whose shot went in off Nagai’s foot.

“That was the result of teamwork,” Nagai said. “There’s no goal if that shot from Takahashi doesn’t fall to me.”

Although Yamaga entered with a J1-low 17 goals, the club that started the day in next-to-last place had allowed just 31, the seventh fewest in the first division.

The visitors dominated possession for much of the first half, but were unable to penetrate Yamaga’s defense and found themselves vulnerable to counterattacks.

After the break, however, the Antlers revved up the pressure and that resulted in a 58th-minute equalizer on an Ayase Ueda penalty.

Yamaga defender Yuya Hashiuchi opened that door by wrestling an Antlers player to the ground on a corner kick in full view of the referee. The ref pointed to the spot and Ueda did the rest.

“We were intent on scoring first and seize the momentum,” Nagai said. “But the fact that over 90 minutes we were unable to hold on for the three points shows that we are still lacking.”

At Sapporo Dome, Yoichiro Kakitani scored in the sixth minute and Cerezo Osaka held on to beat Consadole 1-0 and move up to fourth on 49 points ahead of Saturday’s games.

At Saitama Stadium, Yusuke Goto’s 93rd-minute header lifted Oita Trinita to a 1-0 road win over the Urawa Reds.