Matchweek 6 represented the end of the opening part of the season, in a way. With the international break to follow, this was going to wrap up the start of the season and provide a good snapshot of where teams are. It was also a weekend of matches that would stick with teams for a few weeks because of that upcoming break.
So who finished the opening portion of the season on a high? And who is going into the break in need of making some changes?
Kashima Antlers 0, Nagoya Grampus 1
Nagoya put their perfect start to the season on the line when they went to Kashima, but once again, their defense was more than up to the task. They shut down a potent Antlers attack, letting them have the ball, but taking away all dangerous passing lanes as goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak was little more than a spectator. With the defense predictably stout, Nagoya needed just one goal to win, and they got it when Sho Inagaki got a loose ball at the top of the box in the 59th minute and struck it just inside the post. A late Kashima red card ended any threat of a comeback and Grampus extended their win streak to start the season to six games.
Sagan Tosu 0, Avispa Fukuoka 0
Nagoya have given up one goal all year, but they don’t have the best defense in the league. Sagan Tosu do. And that defense extended its perfect start to the season with a sixth shutout in as many contests over the weekend. They did not allow Avispa to put a single shot on goal all game, but unfortunately for Sagan, they were unable to pick up all three points due to some fine goalkeeping by Masaaki Murakami. The Avispa backstop denied Sagan on four occasions and, on another, a Sagan goal was incorrectly flagged for offside so the home side had to settle for a single point.
Urawa Reds 0, Kawasaki Frontale 5
Frontale dropped points for the first time all season in miweek action, but they made it clear that they were unshaken by their first stumble. The defending champions came out flying and nearly went ahead twice in the early going, but it took until just before halftime before Yu Kobayashi finally broke the deadlock with a good header from 12 yards. Three minutes into the second half, Leandro Damião doubled the Frontale lead with a spectacular goal, taking the ball down on his chest then hitting a brilliant twisting shot off the half volley. Reo Hatate then scored, before Kobayashi added his second and Yasuto Wakizaka knocked home No. 5 as Frontale wrapped up a phenomenal performance to put them right back to their winning ways.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 3, Vissel Kobe 4
Days after stunning previously perfect Frontale in stoppage time, Vissel pulled another shocker over the weekend. An Anderson Lopes hat trick gave Consadole a 3-0 lead after 46 minutes and had them home side looking like sure winners at the Sapporo Dome, but the third goal seemed to just mark the start of the match for Vissel. First, Hotaru Yamaguchi scored in the 53rd minute to get the visitors on the scoreboard, then Kyogo Furuhashi intercepted a backpass, rounded the keeper and finished to start the Vissel comeback. 11 minutes after falling behind by three, Vissel had cut the Sapporo lead to one. By the 67th minute, Vissel were even. Once again, they were in alone on the goalkeeper and this time when they tried to round Kojiro Nakano, he committed a foul for a penalty. Furuhashi buried the spot kick and Vissel had done it. They’d come all the way back from 3-0. But they were not content with a draw and three minutes from time, Daiju Sasaki went on a terrific run that completely unlocked the Consa defense before dragging the ball back for Yamaguchi, who scored with his first touch to take an incredible three points from three goals down for a Vissel team that is nothing short of exhilarating right now.
FC Tokyo 2, Vegalta Sendai 1
An early goal by Koji Hachisuka had Vegalta dreaming of a crucial away result at the Ajinomoto Stadium, but as soon as the visitors scored, FC Tokyo stepped on the gas pedal. Two minutes after falling behind, FC Tokyo got even through a scorching 25-yard strike from Kyosuke Tagawa. Then, just before halftime, Diego Oliveira brought the ball down with one touch, skinned a defender with his second, then slid the ball just inside the post with his third touch for what would prove to be the winning goal as FC Tokyo stretched their unbeaten streak to three games.
Kashiwa Reysol 1, Shimizu S-Pulse 2
It took just over three minutes for S-Pulse to take a quick away lead, as Yoshinori Suzuki got on the end of a corner kick and directed a ball on frame that Kim Seung-gyu will feel that he should have saved. Unfortunately for Reysol, he did not keep it out and S-Pulse were in front. That lead would double before the half hour mark as Thiago Santana got free in front of goal and headed home to make it 2-0 S-Pulse. Reysol fought back, scoring through Yuta Kamiya, but that is all they managed on a rainy night in Kashiwa as S-Pulse got their first win since the opening weekend and Reysol dropped their fourth straight.
Oita Trinita 1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3
It took a while for this one to get going. A Douglas Vieira header off the crossbar accounted for most of the first half action, but the second half was nonstop action. Shun Nagasawa put Oita Trinita just after the break with a terrific header, but the lead held for a mere 13 minutes. Toshihiro Aoyama equalized with a gorgeous looping header, then Sanfrecce just kept building momentum. More possession, more chances, but it began to look like they would not find a winner. That is until the 87th minute, when Yuta Imazu weighted a perfect pass for Hayao Kawabe to run onto, and Kawabe finished coolly to put the visitors in front. Shun Ayukawa added a stoppage time tally to wrap up the win and Sanfrecce walked out of The Big Eye with a comeback and three well-earned points in their pocket.
Tokushima Vortis 2, Yokohama FC 1
The battle of two winless teams went the way of the newly promoted Vortis, as they just edged out a Yokohama FC side still in search of their first point of the season. Both sides had opportunities in the early going, with phenomenal chances just barely not lighting up the scoreboard, but Vortis did go ahead in the 42nd minute courtesy of a Ryuji Sugimoto own goal. Yutaro Hakamata got Yokohama even in the 58th minute when his powerful header found the back of the net on a corner kick, but the key moment in the match came 15 minutes later. Vortis were a threat on the counterattack from the beginning and they finally got loose 17 minutes from time when Taisei Miyashiro was played in alone on goal. His angle wasn’t great, wide on the left, but he deftly chipped the oncoming goalkeeper to score the winning goal and give Vortis a solid five points from six points in their return to the top flight. Yokohama, meanwhile, are in real trouble and will need to start picking up points or relegation is going to become a serious fear.
Shonan Bellmare 0, Cerezo Osaka 0
The one thing you’ve been able to count on when Cerezo Osaka play this season is goals. They score a ton and they are prone to letting some in too. Their trip to Hiratsuka did not disappoint for action, as both they and Shonan Bellmare created plenty of chances, but Cerezo were not able to turn any of their 11 shots on goal, while Shonan only put three of their 16 on frame as the teams had to settle for a surprising scoreless draw.