SHIZUOKA – FC Tokyo withstood early pressure from Shimizu S-Pulse in the J. League first division on Sunday as they kicked off their 2020 season with a 3-1 win.
The 2019 runners-up struggled to gain traction against S-Pulse, who finished 12th last year, and found themselves 1-0 down at IAI Stadium following an early second-half goal from Thailand international Teerasil Dangda.
Teerasil, playing in the J. League again after a 2018 loan stint with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, missed with a couple of shots in a quiet first half but was able to put S-Pulse ahead two minutes after the break.
The Thai striker received a deft through-pass from Kenta Nishizawa in front of the penalty area and blasted past goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi.
But FC Tokyo gained momentum later in the second half after forward Leandro drew a penalty and Diego Oliveira equalized from the spot against S-Pulse keeper Neto Volpi in the 77th.
The visitors took the lead three minutes later following a superb passing display, with Oliveira sending the ball through the defense to Adailton, who chipped Volpi to make it 2-1. Leandro capped the scoring with an injury-time penalty.
In other matches, goals from Shu Kurata and Shinya Yajima helped Gamba Osaka hang on for a 2-1 win over reigning champions Yokohama F. Marinos.
In that game, 40-year-old Gamba midfielder Yasuhito Endo played in his 631st J1 game, equaling the record set by former Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki.
Endo, whose 152 national team caps are the most by a Japanese player, became the first Japanese to play in 1,000 league, cup and senior international games.
In Kobe, Kyogo Furuhashi’s 74th-minute equalizer salvaged a 1-1 draw for Vissel Kobe against Yokohama FC.
Douglas Vieira, Leandro Pereira and Tsukasa Morishima all scored in host Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s 3-0 rout of Kashima Antlers.