The reigning J.League Division 1 champions Kashiwa Reysol conceded a late Hiroyuki Tanaguchi goal as they were held to a thrilling 3-3 draw against Yokohama F-Marinos at the Hitachi Kashiwa Soccer Stadium. J.League player of the year Leandro Domingues had a part to play in all three goals for the Sun Kings, involved in the build-up which led to Hiroki Sakai and Juyna Tanaka twice taking the lead before adding the third himself. Reysol looked to be heading for all three points until the 91st minute, when substitute Hiroyuki Tanaguchi levelled from close range, adding to the two scored by teammates Masashi Oguro and Manabu Saito.
Reysol took just three minutes to open their account, Leandro’s free-kick being met with a spectacular assist from Jorge Wagner to allow Sakai to prod in from close range. Four minutes later the Marinos restored parity with Oguro shooting from close range to beat Takanori Sugeno in the Reysol goal.
On 12 minutes Reysol once again held the advantage, Leandro and Wagner both featuring in the move which led to Tanaka finished smartly. Reysol then failed to take advantage of a number of chances, Wagner having two headers saved and Leandro only finding the roof of the short shortly after the restart. Although referee Nobutsugu Murakami failed to award a penalty to the Marinos for what appeared a handball offence by Wataru Hasimoto, they were punished when Saito, the diminutive but highly-rated forward who spent the 2011 J.League season on loan at Ehime FC, scoring fourteen times in thirty-six appearances, equalised with a thumping shot from distance, finding the left-hand corner with 15 minutes played in the second-half.
Five minutes later, Leandro added Reysol’s third, beating Hiroki Iikura, and as the match was drawing to a close it seemed Reysol had countered the Marinos attempts to comeback. However, Tanaguchi’s last-minute goal gave the Marinos the share of the spoils and justice for some poor officiating.
Reysol, who came back from two goals down to Thailand’s Burarim United in the AFC Champions League but were stunned by a 72 minute winner from Jirawat Makkharom, now travel to Saitama to face Urawa Red Diamonds in search of their first competitive victory in the 2012 season.
Elsewhere, Vegalta Sendai and Kashima Antlers returned to the Yurtec Stadium in an emotional opening match, both clubs suffering damage following last year’s earthquake. The 1-0 victory to Sendai was in no small part due to Taikai Ouemoto, the new recruit from Cerezo Osaka scoring with a near post header following excellent work from Shingo Akamine in diverting a deep Yoshiaki Ota corner back across goal.
In the Kansai derby Gamba Osaka were downed at home by Vissel Kobe, Ashi falling to a 3-2 defeat at the Osaka Expo ’70 Stadium. Gamba, who should challenge strongly for the title following a 2011 season in which they finished just two points behind eventual winners Kashiwa Reysol, may bemoan allowing midfielder Hideo Hashimoto to join their regional rivals, Hashimoto heading Vissel’s second together with a Yoshito Okubo brace. Paulinho replied to Okubo’s opener with a terrific long-range effort before Hashimoto and Okubo gave Vissel a measure of comfort, Rafhina adding a consolation for Gamba in injury time.
Last year’s runner-up Nagoya Grampus were victorious on the opening day of the season, the Toyota Stadium crowd party to a first-half Josh Kennedy penalty against Shimizu S-Pulse. It was a match otherwise light on incident, with only four attempts on goal in the second-half in total from both teams.
The three newly promoted teams all began their J.League Division 1 campaign with creditable performances (you can read the Omiya Ardija v. FC Tokyo match report here). At the Sapporo Dome, Consadole held Jubilo Iwata to a 0-0 draw, and in their first ever appearances in the top flight of Japanese football, Sagan Tosu frustrated Cerezo Osaka at the Best Amenity Stadium to win their first point at this level in a goalless match.
The Hiroshima Big Arch saw home team Sanfrecce defeat Urawa Red Diamonds, the 1-0 victory coming courtesy of captain’s Hisato Sato 49th minute winner, a rebound falling kindly to the skipper after Naoki Ishihara’s shot was saved smartly by keeper Nobuhiro Kato.
Albirex Niigata stumbled to a 1-0 defeat away to Kawasaki Frontale. Frontale, beaten in their three previous matches against Albi, Yuki Senato heading a Renato free-kick past a despairing Kisho Yano.