Sanfrecce shocked as Reds take early lead

Sanfrecce shocked as Reds take early lead

Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima began the defence of their MEIJI YASUDA J1 League crown by suffering an opening-day defeat to Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday, losing 1-0 in front of their own supporters.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men hoped to begin the 2016 domestic season on a high note when they welcomed their opponents but the visitors were the ones who looked more likely to break the deadlock from the off.

Both sides enjoyed chances with either goalkeeper being called into action to make several smart stops but it was Frontale who found the opener first when Yu Kobayashi picked up substitute Yoshihiro Nakano’s 84th-minute delivery to lash home from inside the box.

Sanfrecce’s early setback ensured title rivals Urawa Reds had double the reason to celebrate their 2-1 triumph at Kashiwa Reysol, with Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic in attendance.

The Reds dominated in terms of scoring opportunities and thought they had found the opener when Tadanari Lee bundled home after excellent work from Tomoya Ugajin down the left, but the goal was subsequently ruled out for handball.

The side from Urawa did not have much longer to wait, however, as Yuki Muto pounced onto a Lee effort that Kosuke Nakamura let squirm away to put his side in the lead.

Reysol captain Hidekazu Otani equalised temporarily for the visitors, but the Reds sealed a deserved win when Muto - determined to put on a show in front of Halilhodzic - floated in a corner that Zlatan Ljubijankic reached first to head in.

The value of victory only increased later in the day when fellow contenders FC Tokyo succumbed 1-0 at home to Omiya Ardija thanks to Yuzo Iwakami’s winner, the newly-promoted outfit celebrating a dream return to the top flight.

There was no such sympathy shown for Jubilo Iwata when they bowed 1-0 to Nagoya Grampus at Yamaha Stadium after Robin Simovic towered high at a corner to thump home the winning header.

Ventforet Kofu sealed a splendid 2-0 win away at Vissel Kobe following ex-Reysol hitman Cristiano’s brace to leave Nelsinho’s hosts mulling another poor result.

Fellow relegation-battlers Avispa Fukuoka lost 2-1 at Sagan Tosu but Vegalta Sendai beat Yokohama F.Marinos 1-0 at Nissan Stadium following a solitary Hitotaka Mita strike.