Shuto Yamamoto was perfectly placed to head home Kashima Antlers’ winner against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Wednesday, in the process ending the hosts’ five-match winning run.
Sanfrecce’s confidence had been soaring prior to the clash following their perfect start to the second stage of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season, although the visit of Antlers’ threatened to be a potential banana skin.
And the resurgent side, themselves on a three-game winning run under new boss Masatada Ishii, wasted no time showcasing their credentials for the latter stages of the season with a smash-and-grab 1-0 win.
Left-back Yamamoto jumped highest to force in Yasushi Endo’s corner in the 32nd minute, the opener later turning out to be the winner even though Takuma Asano struck Antlers’ post in the second half.
It is a victory that moves Ishii’s men within two points of the second stage leaders, with Kashiwa Reysol, themselves enjoying an upturn of form, sitting third in the table on 12 points following a 2-0 win over Vissel Kobe.
Matchday 6 brought some joy for first stage winners Urawa Reds as well, their 2-1 defeat of Albirex Niigata secured with Zlatan Ljubijankic’s strike and a spectacular Tsukasa Umesaki blockbuster to end a stretch of four games without a win.
Yokohama F.Marinos had been on their own torrid stretch of eight games without winning but responded to their doubters in emphatic fashion by routing Nagoya Grampus 3-0 at Paloma Mizuho Stadium.
Manabu Saito left Seigo Narazaki with no chance when he rifled an unstoppable right-footed drive into Grampus’s net for the opener at the half-hour mark, before Ademilson and Sho Ito rounded off an impeccable showing from F.Marinos.
Kazuaki Tasaka had been appointed as Shimizu S-Pulse manager but was left under no illusions about his task as his team slumped to a 2-1 home loss to Shonan Bellmare in his debut in the dugout.
Tomoya Inukai’s eighth-minute own-goal was an omen of what was to come, and though S-Pulse equalised through Genki Omae after an hour played, it was not to be their night as Tsuyoshi Shimamura struck Bellmare’s winner from close range.
Hideto Takahashi’s well-struck low volley secured a 1-0 win for FC Tokyo at Ventforet Kofu in a clash the visitors dominated, with reserve goalkeeper Tatsuya Enomoto dealing comfortably with everything that came his way.
Their Tamagawa Clasico rivals Kawasaki Frontale were only able to grind out a 0-0 draw against Montedio Yamagata, while Vegalta Sendai came back from behind to beat Matsumoto Yamaga 3-1 thanks to Hidetaka Kanazono’s brace.