Takuma Asano came off Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s bench to inspire his team’s 2-1 victory at Urawa Reds on Sunday, inflicting on the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League first stage winners their first defeat this season.
Hajime Moriyasu’s men cemented their credentials for the second stage with their third win in as many games since the league restart, with Asano’s entry for Hisato Sato while Sanfrecce were chasing the game pivotal.
The Reds’ initially appeared on course to secure their 20th game unbeaten this term when Takahiro Sekine opened the scoring in the 35th minute, the Saitama Stadium outfit later enjoying several other chances to extend their lead.
But Asano had other ideas and calmly placed Sanfrecce’s equaliser beyond Shusaku Nishikawa two minutes after he entered the pitch shortly after the hour mark.
The 20-year-old, who has now netted four goals in 18 league appearances this season, then made a driving run at the heart of the Urawa defence that led to Toshihiro Aoyama blasting in a sensational winner from outside the box.
Yokohama F.Marinos similarly produced similar heroics during their 2-2 comeback at Gamba Osaka, with the champions throwing away a two-goal lead for the second time in consecutive matches without a win now.
Patric had struck Gamba’s opener early in the 5th minute before Takashi Usami netted his 15th goal of the season in the second period, though Ademilson’s excellent finish in the 83rd minute gave F.Marinos a way back.
And the equaliser they were searching for would come through talisman Shunsuke Nakamura, with the veteran netting a trademark free-kick that left Masaaki Higashiguchi with no chance at all.
Second-placed Vissel Kobe capitalised by retaining their spot with a 2-1 comeback win at Vegalta Sendai, sealed by two goals in two minutes from first Kazuma Watanabe and then Shunki Takahashi.
Kashiwa Reysol meanwhile secured their second victory in a row, defeating Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 thanks to Masato Kudo’s 15th minute goal, though Frontale had hit the bar earlier.
Ventforet Kofu also earned their first victory after going three games without one thanks to an excellent brace by Brazilian Bare which secured them a 2-0 win at Shonan Bellmare.
Earlier, a double by Peter Utaka had not been enough to give Shimizu S-Pulse their first win of the second stage as Nagoya Grampus pegged them back twice through strike pair Kengo Kawamata and Milivoje Novakovic for an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Albirex Niigata were able to comfortably secure victory over Sagan Tosu through Kei Koizumi’s sensational piece of skill with a volley from outside the box, the youngster deservedly scoring the only goal of the game.
Matsumoto Yamaga earned a big scalp by beating Kashima Antlers 2-0, while FC Tokyo and Montedio Yamagata could only play out a 0-0 draw.