The empty stadium was unusual. The lopsided scoreline was not.
Kawasaki Frontale maintained their recent stellar record over Tamagawa Classico rival FC Tokyo on Wednesday with a 4-0 victory at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium, handing last year’s runner-up its first loss of the J. League first-division season.
Midfielder Tatsuya Hasegawa netted a brace and striker Leandro Damiao recorded one goal and two assists for the two-time J1 champion in the second round of “remote matches” played in empty stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After initial forays into the final third by the Tokyo attack, it took just 17 minutes for the visitors to find purchase. Damiao deftly settled Kyohei Noborizato’s throw-in and set up the ball for Ryota Oshima, whose right foot sent the ball rocketing to the underside of the crossbar before it bounced past the goal line.
Damiao added his own goal in the 23rd minute with a clever backheel to make it 2-0, giving Tokyo manager Kenta Hasegawa plenty to discuss with his players during the water break that immediately followed.
Just five minutes later Damiao was again the provider with a quick setup at the post for an unmarked Tatsuya Hasegawa, who slid the ball past Tokyo goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi from just outside the six-yard box.
So desperate was Tokyo’s Hasegawa to spur on change that he made his first substitution before the half, replacing Yojiro Takahagi with Adailton.
“We were able to create transitions from turnovers to shots, but their players were getting past us too easily, especially on the second goal,” Kenta Hasegawa said.
But that wasn’t enough to stop the Hasegawa on the pitch from notching his second of the night shortly before additional time, sending Frontale into the locker room with a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 lead.
“We only had three days to prepare for the match (after Saturday’s 2-1 win against Kashima Antlers), but I’m glad we could score our first goal early and the others came at the right time,” Tatsuya Hasegawa said after the match.
Frontale was hardly troubled in the second half and even had a couple of chances to extend the lead to 5-0 on a night when little seemed to go right for the home side.
“I’m still not 100 percent satisfied,” said Frontale manager Toru Oniki. “Honestly, I would have liked to see us score in the second half. We lost the ball a few times and we have to make some adjustments.”
Including the Levain Cup, Wednesday’s defeat marked a fourth straight loss for Tokyo against Kawasaki at home. The Classico, Tokyo’s biggest rivalry match in the absence of a derby against cross-metropolitan rival Tokyo Verdy, regularly sells out both Ajinomoto and Kawasaki’s Todoroki Stadium.
In the absence of fans, Tokyo staff set up several displays in the stands using flags as well as uniforms provided by the club’s senior and academy teams. Two displays on the back stand, on either side of a 120-kg flag reading “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” expressed the club’s gratitude to medical workers with the word “Thanks” on one side and a heart surrounding a nurse’s hat on the other.
In accordance with a loosening of the government’s restrictions on large-scale gatherings, fans will be allowed in J. League stadiums from July 10. Frontale will play in front of supporters the following day when it hosts Kashiwa Reysol, while Tokyo will welcome fans to Ajinomoto on July 18 when it hosts Urawa.
“It was the Classico and we came in really wanting to win,” Oniki said. “We played aggressively in the first half… and we want this win to connect to a good result on Saturday as well.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, a late Ado Onaiwu goal propelled Yokohama F. Marinos to a stunning 3-2 win over Kanagawa Derby rival Shonan Bellmare, with all five goals coming in the second half.
Drama was also the name of the game at Edion Stadium in Hiroshima, where Kazushi Mitsuhira’s goal in stoppage time gave Oita Trinita a 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
At Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium, Shinzo Koroki’s 100th J1 goal for Urawa Reds proved to be the decided as they squeaked past Vegalta Sendai 2-1.
Vissel Kobe captain Andres Iniesta assisted Douglas’ 1-0 game winner against Sagan Tosu at Ekimae Real Estate Stadium. Consadole Sapporo triumphed over Kashima Antlers with an early goal by Musashi Suzuki and a late finisher by Lucas Fernandes.
Promoted Yokohama FC won their first top-flight game in 4,604 days, according to Opta, with a 3-1 away victory against Kashiwa Reysol. At Yanmar Stadium, Cerezo Osaka required two late goals by Hiroaki Okuno and Eiichi Katayama to get past Shimizu S-Pulse in a 2-0 final score.
Nagoya Grampus fought from behind to take a 2-1 lead against Gamba Osaka, but settled for a draw after Kazuma Watanabe’s late equalizer made it 2-2.