Kawasaki Frontale won their fourth Meiji Yasuda J1 League title in five years last season, sending them into 2022 as the favorites yet again. Yokohama F·Marinos were their closest challengers a year ago, finishing in second place. So with the two set to square off in their second matches of the campaign on Wednesday, it was a real bellwether for the title race.
The boys from Yokohama turned in a spectacular second half to blow past Frontale, 4-2, and make quite the statement as they look to unseat the champions. Élber and Teruhito Nakagawa each scored a pair of goals as Marinos scored all of their goals in a 22-minute span to jump top of the table very early on.
Frontale had the bulk of the chances in the first half and Akihiro Ienaga finished a good cross from Kento Tachibanada to give them a 1-0 halftime lead, but they only managed one from their handful of good opportunities. That left the door open for Marinos after the break and they ran through.
Marinos got on the board in the 57th minute when Élber skied high to meet a cross from Marcos Júnior, heading the ball home to equalize. A minute later, Élber won a race to the ball down the right and hit a cross for Nakagawa, who redirected the ball towards goal on the full volley for a gorgeous finish that put the home side in front. In the 64th minute it was Élber again, hitting a low shot from 25 yards that took a deflection and found the back of the net for a 3-1 Tricolor advantage.
Frontale kept fighting and a clever run by Kei Chinen saw him get free in front of net to head in a cross to make it 3-2, but Marinos were too powerful. The introduction of Anderson Lopes, who started on the bench, put Frontale under more pressure before Nakagawa scored a delicious goal to wrap the game up. Nakagawa found himself with a little bit of space at the edge of the box from the left, cut in to create and angle and hit a perfect curler into the top corner, making it 4-2 and putting a stamp on a terrific showing by the Tricolor.
It is still very early in the season, with Marinos and Frontale two of just four clubs to have played multiple matches this season, but Frontale are the highly regarded champions and the Tricolor’s showing on Wednesday validates their contender status. It was a spectacular day for Marinos and, if the two clubs are in fact going to wage a title race, the early advantage goes to the boys in blue, white and red.