Saitama – Urawa Reds and Shimizu S-Pulse fought to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night, with defensive miscues leading to both second-half goals in the J. League first-division encounter.
The showdown between two of the league’s Original 10 clubs was testy from the outset, with three players shown yellow cards in the first 22 minutes.
Urawa pressed early and put Shimizu goalkeeper Togo Umeda under pressure, but the visitors gradually found their composure as time advanced, with many of their most dangerous chances coming through set pieces.
By the end of the first half it was S-Pulse with the majority of possession, and despite regulations put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus some fans behind the Urawa goal could not help but let out scattered boos when the team in white advanced into the final third.
“It’s a match that we dominated and controlled the first half the way we wanted to, created multiple chances, and we built our momentum,” said Shimizu manager Peter Cklamovski. “On another night we could have had a couple of goals in the first half, without a doubt.”
Urawa seemed more composed after the halftime break and it was Leonardo who put the home side ahead in the 55th minute. The Brazilian striker’s attempt at a one-two combination with teammate Kenyu Sugimoto was interrupted by several Shimizu defenders in close proximity, but the ball ended back at his feet and his low shot from a meter inside the box punished Umeda for being so far off his line.
“In the beginning we couldn’t really turn on our switch, but in the second half we started to move,” Reds manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki reflected. “I wanted us to score another goal and I’m disappointed we couldn’t.”
S-Pulse was unable to apply pressure on Urawa until late in the match, but an 86th-minute corner kick provided them with the chance they needed for an equalizer. Leonardo’s short clearance sent the ball straight to Shimizu midfielder Keita Nakamura, who dribbled undefended to the end line before sending a cross to an unmarked Valdo who headed home with a vengeance.
“We got into really dangerous areas and good areas, which we wanted to do,” said Cklamovski. “We always want to improve every aspect of our game. Within the goal that we scored, it’s come from momentum that we’ve created with our football.”
While the result left S-Pulse still looking for their second win this season, midfielder Ryo Takeuchi emphasized that the mood in the Shimizu locker room was positive after the team extended its unbeaten streak to three games.
“Before the season resumed, everyone felt positive in training, and we were eagerat first to play our style,” Takeuchi said. “We weren’t able to get the results we wanted but we kept going and that’s been able to connect to better results. We haven’t won that much, but everyone understands that we aren’t on the wrong path and if we keep at it we’ll start winning.”
Elsewhere in the J1, not a single home team managed to win — disappointing visiting fans who are unable to attend games due to the league’s ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions.
At Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium, a late Marcos Junior goal gave visiting Yokohama F. Marinos a 1-0 win over Vegalta Sendai.
At Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama, Tsukasa Morishima and Douglas Viera scored in Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s 2-0 victory over Yokohama FC.
At Toyota Stadium, Michael Olunga’s ninth goal of the season sent Kashiwa Reysol to a 1-0 win over Nagoya Grampus.
At Ajinomoto Stadium in western Tokyo, last year’s J1 runner-up Tokyo experienced a horror night in a 3-2 defeat to Sagan Tosu.
At Panasonic Stadium in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, Ryota Oshima’s goal shortly after halftime gave Kawasaki Frontale a 1-0 result over Gamba Osaka.
At Oita’s Showa Denko Dome, Kashima Antlers recovered from an early deficit to win 4-1 over Trinita, with Everaldo raising his season total to five goals with a hat trick.