Legendary Sanfrecce Hiroshima forward Hisato Sato bagged a brace as his team opened their MEIJI YASUDA J1 League second stage campaign in spectacular style with a 4-3 win at Vegalta Sendai.
The second-highest top scorer in J.League history moved up to 154 career league goals on Sunday with his double, taking him within sight of record holder Masashi Nakayama.
Importantly, Sato’s scoring exploits, as he struck the game’s opener and then exquisitely scooped the ball over Yuji Rokutan on the stroke of half time, lifted the 2013 champions to a perfect start for the second half of the season.
Kazuya Miyahara and Yoshifumi Kashiwa also struck to make the result appear safe for Sanfrecce, but Vegalta still handed the visitors a major scare in the dying moments when Ramon Lopes and Hiroki Yamamoto netted.
The Sendai outfit’s revival was only bested by Kashima Antlers in their 2-3 fightback against Albirex Niigata, as Toninho Cerezo’s men turned defeat into victory in two minutes of stoppages.
Gen Shoji secured Antlers the opener in the 30th minute but they were immediately pegged back by Hiroshi Ibusuki before Kei Koizumi rifled in to put Albirex into a deserved lead.
From there Masaaki Yanagishita’s side took control but had no answer when Antlers roared back through Shoma Doi, who pounced on a rebound to score in the 94th minute, before Yasushi Endo secured an improbable win with virtually the last kick.
Urawa Reds’ 2-1 win over Matsumoto Yamaga failed to produce so much drama, the first stage winners comfortably dispatching their hosts through goals from Yuki Muto and Shinzo Koroki either side of the break.
Things were far less straightforward for Japanese champions Gamba Osaka in their last-gasp 2-1 victory against Ventforet Kofu however, as the visitors netted first through striker Takuma Abe.
Gamba eventually replied through Patric but had to wait till the 90th minute for league top scorer Takashi Usami to send Kohei Kawata the wrong way from the penalty spot, securing the three points and inflicting on Satoru Sakuma his first league defeat as Ventforet manager.
Kawasaki Frontale earlier dominated and won the Tamagawa Clasico against FC Tokyo 2-0 but had to wait till the 52nd minute to find the breakthrough from Elsinho’s precise finish, before Renato got the Todoroki Stadium crowd on its feet with an excellent free-kick.
Shimizu S-Pulse endured an inauspicious start to the second stage with a 5-0 loss to Vissel Kobe, Ryota Morioka’s 7th-minute opener, Shunki Takahashi’s crisp right-footed volley and then Leandro’s strike in the first half all setting the tone of what was to come at IAI Stadium.
The hosts failed to respond after the break and were further hit by goals from Marquinhos and Takahashi as Vissel brought a streak of five games without a win to an end in style.
However, there was no second stage joy for Kashiwa Reysol as they succumbed 3-2 to a clinical Sagan Tosu, going 3-0 down within the first 40 minutes in front of their fans.
Despite dominating the shots count, Reysol only pulled one back through Cristiano in the 56th minute before the Brazilian netted again in the 89th minute to spark belief in a comeback, but there would be no further heroics from Tatsuma Yoshida’s men.
Elsewhere, Shonan Bellmare earned a 2-1 win over Nagoya Grampus, while Yokohama F.Marinos’ clash with Montedio Yamagata produced a 1-1 draw.