Kashiwa Reysol have not spent much time in the relegation zone this season, but they also haven’t been able to put much space between them and the drop, making every match crucial as they try to stay in the top flight.
On the other hand, Yokohama FC have been rooted to the bottom of the table all season, but a good run of form in the late summer has demonstrated their capacity for a great escape, just as they traveled to Kashiwa over the weekend for a high-profile relegation scrap.
Reysol carried play early on and it paid off in the 29th minute when Yusuke Segawa hit a clean volley that got some help from a deflection for the opening goal. The lead lasted only four minutes, though, as Kazuma Watanabe headed home a free kick for Yokohama FC to bring the match level.
Both teams had bright moments the rest of the way and opportunities to go in front, but good defending kept the match tied. While a draw would not be a bad result for either team, they knew that three points would be massive in the fight to stay up, and Reysol got that chance with a penalty kick.
A foul in the box saw the referee point to the spot and Cristiano stepped up for the kick, but he pulled it wide of the post. The Brazilian had seemingly blown Reysol’s major chance at victory, but he did not hang his head. Instead, he made up for it and then some.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in the match, a pass was played into the path of a sprinting Cristiano. Set on making up for his penalty miss, he hit a shot with his first touch from 20 yards and sent the ball blazing into the top corner for an amazing goal.
The spectacular goal sent the crowd in Kashiwa wild and had serious relegation-battle ramifications, delivering Reysol the full three points and putting them seven clear of the drop zone. On the other side, Yokohama FC were wondering what might have been had they held on, picking up another difficult result and left with an eight-point hill to climb for safety.