Leandro Damiao scored a first-half brace for the defending league champion and front-running Kawasaki Frontale in a 4-0 demolition of second-place Nagoya Grampus on Thursday.
Despite conceding a league-low three goals in their first 12 games, Grampus met their match at Toyota Stadium, where Frontale’s slick passing and precise movement off the ball opened up Nagoya’s defense like a sardine can.
“We’ve been playing well all season,” said Damiao, whose goals left him tied for the J1 scoring lead with nine. “We really studied their defense and prepared ways to apply those things we do well in breaking them down.”
Damiao assisted on Reo Hatate’s opener, and headed in two more of his own as Frontale dominated possession in Grampus’ half of the field.
Hatate broke the ice in the third minute, capitalizing on an almost unbroken spell of early possession by the visitors with a superb finish after an assist from Damiao.
Kaoru Mitoma threaded a pass to Damiao in front of goal. As the Nagoya defense converged on the Brazilian, Hatate dashed into space near the penalty spot and supplied a thundering finish when Damiao pulled the ball back to him.
Frontale tried the same trick a few minutes later, with Mitoma flicking it back to Hatate, who was denied by a big save from ‘keeper Mitchell Langerak. But the reprieve was brief as Damiao headed in an Akihiro Ienaga cross in the 10th minute.
More sustained pressure in Grampus’ half from Frontale’s clockwork passing resulted in a corner that Damiao headed in for his second in the 23rd minute.
The hosts began to get chances in the second half, but found it extremely hard to pry the ball away and maintain any kind of sustained possession.
Daiya Tono, who entered as a substitute in the 77th minute, scored Frontale’s fourth in the 84th.
Frontale’s win moved them to 35 points from 13 games, six ahead of Grampus. Sagan Tosu are another six points further back in third.
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