This weekend marked an exciting start to the second half of the MEIJI YASUDA J2 League campaign, with most clubs still in contention for a playoff spot.
Shonan Bellmare took sole control of first place following a 0-0 draw at Oita Trinita, as title rivals Avispa Fukuoka stumbled in a 2-0 home loss to Zweigen Kanazawa. Kyohei Sugiura scored both goals for the visitors.
A sixth-minute opener from Rikuya Izutsu and a 55th-minute follow-up by Taro Sugimoto gave Tokushima Vortis their fourth straight win as they blanked Nagoya Grampus 2-0. The hosts, who have now lost five out of their last six, remain just outside the playoff zone with 34 points.
A 1-1 draw between Tokyo Verdy and Fagiano Okayama allowed the capital club to remain fifth place with 35 points, good enough to top Mito Hollyhock on goal difference. The Ibaraki outfit drew 2-2 with Roasso Kumamoto after surrendering an equaliser deep into stoppage time.
Early title contenders Yokohama FC continued to struggle in a 3-1 loss at Matsumoto Yamaga, who had the result all but wrapped up by the 61st minute through Hiroyuki Takasaki’s brace and a follow-up goal by Yuya Hashiuchi.
Yokohama’s Ibba scored his 16th of the season late in the match, but it was not enough to stop the team’s five-match winless streak.
On Sunday evening, Renofa Yamaguchi created some distance between themselves and the relegation zone with a 2-0 win against Montedio Yamagata.
The result gives them 16 points, three more than 21st-place Kamatamare Sanuki and table-proppers Thespa Kusatsu Gunma.
While J1 clubs will enjoy the mid-July Summer Break, the J2 campaign will roll on next weekend with a full slate of matches.