Cristiano’s hat-trick inspired Kashiwa Reysol to a stunning 3-0 win against Sanfrecce Hiroshima to go level on points with their hosts, who endured their second MEIJI YASUDA J1 League loss in a row on Sunday.
The Brazilian’s brilliance handed Reysol their fifth win in their last six games and confined Sanfrecce’s previous five-game winning streak at the start of the second stage to distant memory, despite them dominating Sunday’s clash in terms of chances created.
Cristiano gave an ominous sign of what was to come on the evening when he opened the scoring with just three minutes gone, squirming free to fire a shot on goal that goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi should have prevented from trickling across his goal line.
With his outfit coming under increasing pressure in the second half, Cristiano took matters into his own hands by curling a long-range effort into the net to double their lead in spectacular fashion after the hour mark.
Hajime Moriyasu’s men could not find a response also thanks to the heroics of Reysol custodian Takanori Sugeno, and were powerless to prevent Cristiano’s third when he met Kim Chang-soo’s cross with a firm header after Yoshifumi Kashiwa gave the ball away.
Their clinical showing moves the AFC Champions League quarter-finalists up to third in the second stage, while Kashima Antlers roared into first place with an enthralling 3-2 comeback win over Vegalta Sendai.
Takuya Nozawa immediately sent the visitors into a two-goal lead, the veteran’s third-minute opener coming from an excellent display of skill within the box before he volleyed Vegalta’s second home inside the first half hour.
However, they were unable to hold out against Antlers’ subsequent siege and Shuto Yamamoto headed in to halve the deficit just before the break.
The hosts, now on a four-game winning streak under Masatada Ishii’s leadership, left it late to nab the win as Shoma Doi netted twice in the 82nd and 87th minute, bringing out relief and joy amongst the Kashima Stadium faithful.
Earlier, Nathan Burns was busy endearing himself to the FC Tokyo support, with his goal and assist crucial to his side’s 2-1 victory over Gamba Osaka.
The July arrival from Wellington Phoenix delivered a precise cut-back from the flank for Takuji Yonemoto to tap in Tokyo’s first before being perfectly placed to head in the winner, after Patric had temporarily equalised for Gamba.
Urawa Reds thanked Tomoaki Makino for his goal in their hard-fought 1-0 win over Shonan Bellmare, while Yokohama F. Marinos likewise celebrated their second victory in a row with a 2-0 result against Ventforet Kofu.
Montedio Yamagata were still unable to grab their first win of the second stage and succumbed 3-1 to Sagan Tosu at home, with Matsumoto Yamagata meanwhile suffering a 1-0 defeat to Nagoya Grampus for their third straight loss.
Shimizu S-Pulse’s see-saw form resulted in them having to fight back to draw 1-1 thanks to Genki Omae’s equaliser against Albirex Niigata at IAI Stadium.
Finally, Vissel Kobe’s Leandro ended a streak of five games without a goal against Kawasaki Frontale, looping his header from a corner over Shota Arai before Kazuma Watanabe left the keeper with no chance with a volley inside the box for a final score of 2-0.