Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s early season woes continued as they narrowly avoided a shock defeat in a 2-2 draw at home to Shonan Bellmare on Saturday.
The Japanese champions are still winless after the first three games in the defence of their league crown, and had to claw back from going behind twice in front of their own fans this weekend.
After a goalless first half in which Sanfrecce dominated, the match exploded into life when Shonan took the lead in shock fashion when Paulinho rifled an absolute blockbuster into the roof of Takuto Hayashi’s net.
Winter arrival Peter Utaka then equalised from the penalty spot, but the Edion Stadium crowd fell into stunned silence when Yoshihito Fujita put the visitors in front again not five minutes later in a lightning counter-attack following a defensive error.
Shonan probably deserved to take more from the game than a point but Takuma Asano was his usual decisive self as he came off the bench to fire in a shot in the 95th minute that Seiya Fujita could only put past his own keeper, the 2-2 sparing Sanfrecce’s blushes in the process.
The setback allowed Urawa Reds to continue pulling clear at the top of the table, with Shinzo Koroki’s brace with goals either side of the break sealing a routine 2-0 win over Avispa Fukuoka.
The 29-year-old got on the end of Takahiro Sekine’s cut-back to open the scoring, before bringing down Tsukasa Umesaki’s cross to turn and rifle in his second of the day in front of Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
Kashima Antlers missed the chance to go top of the table on the day after bowing 1-0 at Vegalta Sendai, allowing Kawasaki Frontale to reach the summit with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Nagoya Grampus.
Elsinho got the scoring underway with a strong left-footed shot, but Riki Matsuda and Kensuke Nagai – the latter producing a magnificent drive from outside the box – struck either side of half-time to put Grampus into the lead.
Despite continuing to threaten, the Toyota outfit were unable to hold on to their lead and Frontale equalised when Kengo Nakamura sailed in a cross that Yoshito Okubo could not miss from point-blank range.
It was the captain who then sealed Frontale’s win with aplomb as he put his foot through the ball on the volley outside the box to clinch the win for his side in the 84th minute and seal three priceless points.
Nakamura’s goal was matched in audacity only by Jay Bothroyd’s, whose looping header from a corner over Kosuke Nakamura opened the scoring in Jubilo Iwata’s 2-2 stalemate at Kashiwa Reysol.
Hiroki Akino and Junya Tanaka replied for the hosts in the second half, but Nagisa Sakurauchi struck in the 90th minute to secure a point and move the promoted outfit into ninth place.
Yokohama F.Marinos picked up their first win of the season in a 2-1 result at Albirex Niigata, going level on four points with Sagan Tosu who were held 1-1 by Ventforet Kofu.