Kawasaki – Kawasaki Frontale continued its dominance of the J. League’s first division on Saturday, complimenting first-half goals by Kaoru Mitoma and Leandro Damiao with a smothering defensive shutdown of Oita Trinita in a 2-0 victory at Todoroki Stadium.
The flashy attack that has become Frontale’s trademark was on full display in front of the crowd of 4,735, as was a defense that showed improvement from Wednesday’s narrow 3-2 Levain Cup win over Kashima Antlers.
“Ahead of the game we prepared some things, but it didn’t really help and you could feel that the gap between the two teams was greater than the scoreline,” said Trinita manager Tomihiro Katanosaka. “It’s not easy to stop a winning streak like theirs. I definitely felt the gap between our strength and theirs.”
Making his first J1 start for Frontale, the 23-year-old Mitoma showed his potential with a net-ripping shot from a meter inside the penalty area after a deft assist from Yasuto Wakizaka.
“It was a great ball from (Wakizaka), I actually didn’t kick it as I planned but it went the opposite direction and I’m happy I went in,” Mitoma said. “It was my first league start and I think my teammates were evaluating my performance, but I’m glad I was able to contribute to the result with a goal.”
Damiao made it 2-0 for the hosts shortly after the first-half water break, when he was perfectly positioned to receive a poor Oita back pass near the edge of the box and bounded his way in before placing the ball past Trinita keeper Mung Kyung-gun.
Oita found itself completely shut down throughout the first half, rarely venturing past the midway line and frequently struggling against Frontale’s defensive press. Trinita’s only shot of the game came in the 44th minute, when midfielder Toshio Shimakawa met Kento Misao’s corner kick with a well-aimed header that forced a big save from Jung Sung-ryong.
“We had some periods that tested us on defense but the players coordinated well and some of those plays lead to goals,” Frontale manager Toru Oniki said. “In the second half we didn’t let them get past the center line often. Everyone on defense understood what their teammates were trying to do.”
Mung was again tested frequently in the second half but did well to keep Frontale from widening their lead, leaping to tip Yu Kobayashi’s 60th-minute rocket over the crossbar. Minutes later, Ao Tanaka narrowly missed his own chance to make it 3-0 when his close-range attempt bounced off the woodwork.
“Frontale’s attack is very strong, and we tried to gain possession,” said Katanosaka. “We were able to get the ball and set up our positioning in the first half, but in the second half we spent a lot of time defending. I thought there were some things we would be able to do, but the players felt Kawasaki’s pressure more than I expected.”
The win was Frontale’s eighth in a row; the 2017 and 2018 league champion has dropped just two points since the start of the season in an opening-day draw against Sagan Tosu.
“I’ve said it elsewhere, but (our record) is really indicative of the players’ ambition and I hope they’ll maintain that,” said Kawasaki manager Toru Oniki.
At IAI Stadium Nihondaira in Shizuoka, S-Pulse needed late goals by Renato Augusto and Carlinhos Junior to beat Consadole Sapporo 3-1 after the visitors spent most of the second half with 10 men following halftime substitute Shunta Tanaka’s red card.
At Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Naoki Maeda needed less than 40 minutes to net a hat-trick and added a fourth for good measure early in the second half as Nagoya Grampus steamrolled Urawa Reds 6-2.
At Kashima Stadium in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, second-half goals by Ryuji Izumi and Everaldo gave Kashima Antlers a 2-0 win over Sagan Tosu.
At Noevir Stadium in Kobe, Vissel Kobe fell behind to Vegalta Sendai on a first-half own goal and fell further behind when Shuhei Akasaki scored in the 72nd minute in a 2-1 defeat.
At Suita Stadium in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, a late stoppage-time goal by Patric gave Gamba Osaka a 2-1 win over Yokohama FC.
At Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, Kashiwa Reysol’s Michael Olunga netted his league-leading 10th goal of the season, but Yokohama F. Marinos’ Ado Onaiwu equalized later in the second half in a 1-1 draw.
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