Okubo brace puts Kawasaki on top

Yoshito Okubo was the main man again for Kawasaki Frontale this weekend, finding the net twice to send his side top of J1…

The Japan News, Sunday 15th May, 2016

KAWASAKI – Kawasaki Frontale moved to the top of the J.League first stage table on Saturday afternoon, coming from a goal down to beat 10-man Vissel Kobe 3-1 on the back of a brace from Yoshito Okubo.

Kazuma Watanabe had put Vissel ahead in first-half stoppage time, but a second-half brace from Okubo and late Elsinho strike enabled Yahiro Kazama’s side to leapfrog Urawa Reds, who could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Albirex Niigata.

Okubo’s double against his former club also lifted him to joint top of the scoring charts with Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Peter Utaka on nine goals, as the 33-year-old targets an unprecedented fourth consecutive season as the most prolific player in J1.

“We moved the ball well in the first half and had chances but were caught out right at the end at a set-piece, which we weren’t happy about,” Kawasaki coach Kazama said.

“At half time we spoke about moving up a gear, and knew that if we pressed a bit higher we’d have opportunities to score. In the end that was how things went and I think it was a good win.”

Kawasaki dominated from the start of the game, and had its first sight on goal in just the 4th minute. Ryota Oshima played a neat one-two with Yu Kobayashi on the edge of the area before advancing and cutting back again for Kobayashi, but the Japan striker sent his effort narrowly wide of the far post.

Oshima almost worked a scoring chance for himself 20 minutes later, but couldn’t quite control after a quick exchange of passes with Eduardo Neto set him free through the middle of the pitch, and Takahito Soma was able to scramble the ball away to safety.

Kobayashi missed an absolute sitter six minutes before the break, controlling an Elsinho cross from the right wing and moving the ball out of his feet well, but then skewing his effort high and wide from eight yards out.

Vissel then opened the scoring against the run of play in the third minute of time added on at the end of the first half.

Kawasaki Frontale 3-1 Vissel Kobe, Saturday 14th May, 2016

Kawasaki defender Tatsuki Nara was stretchered off after fouling Asahi Masuyama 25 yards from goal, and Kobe took the lead in fortuitous fashion from the resultant free kick.

Watanabe sent his effort into the defensive wall, but the ball deflected off Kengo Nakamura’s head and wrong-footed goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong before squirting into the far side of the goal.

Frontale only needed 12 minutes after the restart to draw level, though.

Masatoshi Mihara fouled Kobayashi inside the area and referee Masaaki Iemoto had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, with Okubo showing equal conviction from 12 yards to make it 1-1.

That was his 164th J1 goal and he didn’t have to wait long for his 165th, poking home in the 63rd minute after a chipped ball into the area from Kyohei Noborizato.

Okubo almost had a hat-trick three minutes later as Kobe’s defense struggled to cope with Kawasaki’s onslaught, but goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu was able to palm his drive from range behind.

Vissel’s job was made even more difficult in the 70th minute as Mihara’s miserable afternoon was compounded with a second yellow card for another foul on Kobayashi, and Kawasaki never looked like losing control of the game from that point on.

Kobayashi had a couple more chances as the clock ran down, before Elsinho added the gloss in the 90th minute, keeping his calm to loft home after Yusuke Tasaka’s ball into the area from the right wing.

“I’m not sure if the players are playing with enjoyment or not,” Kazama said of his team’s impressive display. “But if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you can’t build confidence within the team and win games.”

Meanwhile, Akihiro Ienaga’s strike earned Omiya Ardija a 1-0 win away to Vegalta Sendai and saw them jump into fourth, while Hisashi Jogo scored the only goal of the game to deliver Avispa Fukuoka just their second win of the season at home to fellow struggler Shonan Bellmare.

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