Kawasaki Frontale are on the brink of clinching their second consecutive MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE title and their fourth in the last five years. Toru Oniki’s brilliant side stretched their lead atop the table to 12 points over the weekend and with just five matches to go in the season, they will clinch the title if they can extend their lead by just one more point over second place Yokohama F·Marinos on Wednesday.
Frontale entered the weekend nine points clear of Marinos and favorites to beat Shimizu S-Pulse at home, but the visitors gave them all they can handle. The champions struggled to break down S-Pulse and only the brilliance of Leandro Damião was enough to deliver victory. The Brazilian scored a gorgeous backheel for the lone goal in Frontale’s 1-0 win, not only moving Frontale three points closer to the title, but moving within one goal of Daizen Maeda as the league’s top goalscorer.
While Frontale struggled to score, Marinos struggled to defend. Cerezo Osaka hit them for two goals in the first 21 minutes, with Takashi Inui and Matsuki Kato scoring to put the Sakura ahead early on. Yuki Saneto was able to get one back for Marinos, but that was all as they fell, 2-1, in Osaka.
Frontale host Urawa Reds on Wednesday in what will surely be a difficult contest, while Marinos welcome Gamba Osaka to Yokohama. If Frontale win, any dropped points by Marinos will clinch the league for the defending champions. A Marinos loss will mean even a Frontale draw will do the job.
There are still five matches to go, but Frontale are on the verge of glory yet again, and any match day can deliver them the title.