J-League Review: League-leading Vegalta Sendai contain champions Kashiwa Reysol

J-League fans brave enough to withstand yet another day of unseasonably poor weather were treated to a series of exciting results, including a tense encounter at Kashiwa Stadium
ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

Kashiwa Reysol 2-3 Vegalta Sendai, FC Tokyo 1-2 Kashima Antlers, Yokohama F. Marinos 1-1 Omiya Ardija, Urawa Reds 2-0 Vissel Kobe, Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Jubilo Iwata, Nagoya Grampus 3-1 Consadole Sapporo, Sagan Tosu 1-0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Gamba Osaka 3-2 Kawasaki Frontale, Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Albirex Niigata

THE WEEKEND STORY

A cold rain kept temperatures down to an uncomfortable 10 degrees, but it did not prevent over 12,000 poncho-clad fans from making their way to Kashiwa Stadium to watch the champions go down to early league leaders Vegalta Sendai in a five-goal thriller. Naoki Sugai drew first blood for Sendai, but the hosts who had their issues with the conditions finally found their feet with 2011 league MVP Leandro Domingues levelling with a 55th-minute free kick.

The joy of the home crowd didn't last long as Reysol goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno failed to manage Vegalta's lightning-fast counter, as Kunimitsu Sekiguchi converted with his right foot from close range to make it 2-1. Reysol hit back, as Leandro volleyed to level from a difficult angle but Shingo Akamine kept up his fine early season with a 78th-minute winner. Leandro later saw red leaving his side with no chance and down in 10th after six games, while Sendai march on.

Elsewhere there were opening wins for traditional top clubs Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers who remain in the bottom three, while Urawa Reds' 2-0 win over Vissel Kobe saw them move up to second.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Vegalta Sendai 6
5 1
0
14
6 +8 16
2
Urawa Reds
6
4
1
1
9
4
+5 13
3
Nagoya Grampus
6
4
0
1
10
6
+4 13
4
S. Hiroshima 6
4
2
2 9
4
+5 12

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Genki Omae

Shimizu S-Pulse

After being called up as a replacement member for Japan's Under-23 training camp earlier this month, the 22-year-old made a huge appeal for a potential trip to London with a two-goal display in leading S-Pulse to a 3-2 win over rivals Jubilo Iwata in the Shizuoka Derby.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"I'd rather we won, even if I didn't score."
-Yokohama F. Marinos striker Yuji Ono, who scored his side's first goal since opening day in an eventual 1-1 draw with Omiya Ardija

"We don't think it was a ligament injury."
-Manager Ranko Popovic discussing FC Tokyo and Japan Under-23 goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, who was stretchered off the pitch after taking a heavy blow to his knee in a collusion with Antlers attacker Kyohei Kuroki

"It took everyone here fighting together to get this sort of result against an opponent that plays the most interesting soccer in Japan."
-Sagan Tosu manager Yoon Jung-Hwan, praising supporters as well as his team after their shock 1-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima

THE NUMBERS

2 - In an unusual occurance at Tokyo Stadium, both teams in the match between FC Tokyo and Kashima Antlers were charged with an intentional back pass to the goalkeeper and awarded free kicks from the six-yard line. Antlers' attempt was blocked, while Soutan Tanabe converted for FC Tokyo to tie the game at 1-1
7 - Number of Antlers' players given cautions in the match; two from FC Tokyo also saw yellow
17 - This year's Yokohama F. Marinos join 16 previous J-League teams in failing to record a win in their first six matches. Thirteen teams among them finished 10th or lower in the standings.
300 - Cerezo Osaka talisman Ryuji Bando became the 54th J-Leaguer to record 300 J1 appearances in their loss to Albirex Niigata
652 - Highest number of J1 matches played by any team (a record shared by Antlers, Marinos, Grampus, S-Pulse, and Gamba); Sagan has the fewest with just five

PHOTO OF THE WEEKEND
Brick in the wall | Kashima and FC Tokyo struggle to build a goal-line wall after a back pass foul

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