Yokohama – When it rains, it pours — something Kawasaki Frontale was all too eager to prove in their 3-1 dismantling of Yokohama F. Marinos on Saturday night in a Kanagawa Derby clash at Nissan Stadium.
The J. League’s first-division leader fought back from a 1-0 deficit to score three unanswered goals against the reigning champion, two of them coming in the second half before a sudden torrential downpour offered the defending J1 champions little opportunity to find their footing.
“It’s a disappointing result for us. We worked hard (in the first half) and could have created some more chances,” said Marinos boss Ange Postecoglou. “(In the second half) they started quickly, scored the two goals and it was a difficult game for us.”
Marcos Junior needed just under two minutes to put the scoreboard operator to work when he cooly delivered from a meter inside the penalty area, unmarked after receiving Eitaro Matsuda’s cross from the right corner.
The game evolved into an entertaining back and forth between two sides known for their explosiveness on the attack, and it looked far from assured that the game would end 1-0.
After a number of opportunities in the Marinos area, Frontale found their equalizer when Kaoru Mitoma, unguarded on the left flank, strode up the field, cut inside and threaded the needle past Marinos goalkeeper Park Il-gyu’s hand and inside the far post.
“Their line was high and I was trying to get behind them,” Mitoma said. “At first we tried to press forward and be aggressive, but they scored and we had to adjust.”
Both teams kept up their aggressive tempo through the end of the first half, but even as the temperature dropped at Nissan Stadium it seemed unlikely that either side could press high for the full 90 minutes.
Frontale wasn’t in the mood to wait and showed it as soon as the second half began, punishing Marinos twice in quick succession. One swift attack saw three Kawasaki attackers in the penalty area ready to handle Ryota Oshima’s cross from the left, and it was veteran Akihiro Ienaga who hammered home with little difficulty.
Soon after, Mitoma netted his second of the day, slipping behind Marinos defenders with ease to put himself in position to score on halftime substitute Reo Hatate’s setup pass.
“We weren’t positive with our football. They capitalized on our mistakes, and to concede two goals so quickly (makes it) very hard to get back in the game,” said Postecoglou.
Under normal circumstances Marinos would have been hard-pressed to salvage a draw against their cross-prefecture rival. But heavy rain after Frontale’s third goal forced many of the 4,971 in attendance to seek shelter and slowed down the pace of the game significantly, while Mitoma was unlucky to fall short of a hat trick after a couple missed chances before full time.
“I scored two goals but there were more I could have scored and I’m not satisfied with my performance,” said Mitoma, who now leads Frontale with eight goals in his first pro season. “I didn’t think I’d score this many goals this season, but I have a lot of teammates who bring out the best in me.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s my first season, 23 isn’t young and I want to be a leader on the team.”
The Kanagawa Derby win saw Kawasaki remain on top of the table with 38 points from 15 games. But Frontale boss Toru Oniki told reporters that he was already thinking ahead to Wednesday’s match against Vissel Kobe — against whom Frontale notched a 6-0 Levain Cup quarterfinal win last Wednesday.
“To play against the reigning champion, it was a big game and this win gives us a lot of confidence,” said Oniki. “But as soon as the game’s over it’s important to get past it and focus on the next game.”
Postecoglou, never one to mince words with local media, brushed off a question about the 17-point gap between the two sides.
“It’s irrelevant. I don’t think that way, I’ve never thought that way,” the Australian said. “What I’m thinking is that we could have played better today in the second half, put some pressure on them and gotten a result, but we didn’t and they deserved to win.
“I don’t care about points. I didn’t care about it last year, I don’t care about it this year.”
Earlier on Saturday, Douglas Veira and Yuya Asano scored in the second half to give visiting Sanfrecce Hiroshima a 2-0 win over Consadole Sapporo at Atsubetsu Stadium in Sapporo.
At IAI Stadium in Shizuoka, Kashiwa Reysol rode two early goals to a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse.
At Yurtec Stadium in Sendai, Gamba Osaka shrugged off an early goal by Vegalta Sendai to win 4-1.
At BMW Stadium in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Shonan Bellmare held Vissel Kobe to a 1-1 draw.
At Showa Denko Dome in Oita, Shuto Abe’s goal was the difference-maker in FC Tokyo’s 1-0 win over Oita Trinita.
At Toyota Stadium in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Kashima Antlers rolled to a 3-1 victory over Nagoya Grampus.
At Ekimae Real Estate Stadium in Tosu, Saga Prefecture, Sagan Tosu beat Yokohama FC 3-0 in its first game since a COVID-19 cluster infection forced the team to suspend activities last month.
At Yanmar Stadium in Osaka, Cerezo Osaka scored three second-half goals to shut out Urawa Reds 3-0.