Urawa Reds begin J1 League challenge with Tokyo draw

Urawa Reds begin J1 League challenge with Tokyo draw

The MEIJI YASUDA J1 League’s 25th season has officially kicked off, with the weekend already having provided a number of entertaining fixtures to Japanese football fans.

The action got of to a fast stat in the first edition of Friday Night J.League, with Sagan Tosu hosting Vissel Kobe at Best Amenity Stadium. 

The hosts took an early lead when Kyosuke Tagawa converted from the penalty spot in the 3rd minute, but Vissel salvaged a point when striker Mike Havenaar netted an equaliser just three minutes from full time.

On Saturday, FC Tokyo and Urawa Reds drew 1-1 in a nationally-televised showdown at Ajinomoto Stadium. 

Both goals came in rapid succession early in the second half, with Keigo Higashi putting Tokyo ahead in the 48th minute and Urawa’s Tomoaki Makino evening the score in the 50th.

Thai national team star Teerasil Dangda made an impressive debut for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, heading in the winning goal of his team’s 1-0 win over Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. 

In giving head coach Hiroshi Jofuku a debut win for his new club, Teerasil became the first Thai player to score in a J1 match, beating Consadole midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin to the punch.

In a battle between promoted sides, J1 newcomers V-Varen Nagasaki shocked Shonan Bellmare when they equalised Lee Jeong-hyeop’s early effort through Daichi Tagami’s goal in the 16th minute. 

Bellmare may have eventually came out on top through Toshiki Ishikawa’s 80th-minute goal, but V-Varen showed that they are capable of holding their own in the top flight.

The most fireworks were reserved for Panasonic Stadium Suita, where Nagoya Grampus topped Gamba Osaka in a 3-2 slugfest that featured goals from a trio of Grampus’ foreign stars in Gabriel Xavier, Rocha and Jo. 

Former Brazil international Jo netted the stunning game-winner in the 84th minute, beating Gamba goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi to slot his grounder into the back of the net.

In addition to four J1 matches, Sunday will see the kickoff of the MEIJI YASUDA J2 League with a full slate of 11 fixtures.