2016 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League First Stage winners Kashima Antlers began their Second Stage campaign by being outclassed 3-1 at home by Gamba Osaka.
Masatada Ishii’s men were crowned winners of the first half of the season with their Gamba counterparts languishing further down the table, but Saturday’s game was not reflective of that.
Shuhei Akasaki scored to give the hosts the lead but it was all the visitors from there as Kotaro Omori equalised only three minutes later.
Yasuyuki Konno then fired home on the hour mark and before Kim Jung-ya sealed a jubilant win, as Kenta Hasegawa’s side look ahead on a campaign with renewed hope after the loss of Takashi Usami.
First Stage runners-up Kawasaki Frontale, buoyed by Antlers unexpected reverse, took full advantage and sunk Vegalta Sendai 3-0 through strikes from Shohei Otsuka, Yu Kobayashi and Koji Miyoshi.
Urawa Reds also saw to a 2-1 – albeit unconvincing – victory at Avispa Fukuoka despite having Tomoaki Makino sent off as early as the 22nd minute.
Wellington dispatched the penalty the Japan stalwart gave away but it did not stop Mihailo Petrovic’s side from coming back – Daisuke Nasu striking in the first half.
Shinzo Koroki, one of Japan’s overaged players at the 2016 Rio Olympics, then struck the winner to give the Reds a winning start to their Second Stage campaign.
Earlier in the evening, a Leandro brace saw Vissel Kobe emphatically see off Ventforet Kofu away, while Omiya Ardija needed Hiroyuki Komoto’s 94th-minute winner to down Nagoya Grampus 1-0.
Sagan Tosu then pulled off an even more improbable feat, striking twice in injury time to defeat FC Tokyo 3-2.
Leading 2-1 as they entered stoppages, the capital club were first hit by Kei Ikeda’s 94th-minute equaliser, before Yohei Toyoda sealed a barely-believable comeback with his 95th-minute strike.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima also showed more of their old colours with a routine 3-0 result against Jubilo Iwata, with Kosei Shibasaki striking a brace in the first half before Peter Utaka wrapped up the win on home soil.
In the final result on a day of twists and turns, Kashiwa Reysol saw off Albirex Niigata by a single fluke goal – Albirex goalkeeper Tatsuya Morita palming a header onto Michael James’ outstretched foot for the New Zealander to divert into his own net.