Matchday One of the J.League Yamazaki Nabisko Cup saw Sagan Tosu take three points and record their first ever victory against J.League Division 1 opponents, with a 2-1 win over Kawasaki Frontale at the Best Amenity Stadium. Kawasaki Frontale had started the season brightly with two league victories and no goals conceded. However, Shohei Okada gave Sagan the advantage in the 53rd minute, and with Ryunosuke Noda doubling the lead twelve minutes later, a 78th minute finish from Takuro Yajima wasn’t enough to prevent the team from Saga Prefecture writing a new chapter in their history.
Consadole Sapporo were once again be let down by poor finishing, stumbling to a 1-0 loss at the hands of visitors Albirex Niigata. Both teams were in search of their first victory of 2012, and the points went to Albi when Alan Mineiro struck in the 38th minute. Consadole’s goals to shots ratio is now 1:38, a statistic which will need to see significant improvement over the season if they are to remain in J.League Division 1.
Last year’s Runners-up Urawa Red Diamonds saw off Vegalta Sendai in a match played in perfect conditions at the Sendai Stadium. Early league leaders Vegalta, who were unbeaten in pre-season and were yet to concede in competitive play, fell to a second-half goal from defender Mitsuru Nagata, who rose to meet a Yosuke Kashiwagi corner which he placed past Takuto Hayashi in the Vegalta goal.
Urawa’s victory came with manager Mihailo Petrović making nine changes to his starting line-up from the weekend’s 1-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol, veteran goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi, defensive midfielder Nobuhisa Yamada and Brazilian forward Popo the only players over the age of 24. Petrović’s strategy of introducing young players, which had proved fruitful during his time at Sturmz Graz and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, again paid dividends, with the Reds creating the better goalscoring opportunities in an otherwise even first period.
The Vegalta fightback did materialise and Yamagishi was called into action on several occasions, most notably saving magnificently at full-stretch from a Yoshiaki Ota free-kick, Ota having previously beaten goalkeeper but not post when a spectacular effort from distance. On 81 minutes Urawa had been stretched even further when young Australian defender Matthew Špiranović received his second yellow card, but the Reds held on in a triumph for the youthful side.
Kashima Antlers began the 2012 campaign with a commanding 2-0 victory at the Kashima Soccer Stadium. Two goals in the first period were sufficient to secure the points, Mitsuo Ogasawara’s flick-on being met with a header by Yuya Osako on 20 minutes, and then a spectacular Yasushi Endo volley into added time. The Antlers would also miss a penalty in the second half, Juninho winning and taking the spot kick but seeing his shot by Yuki Uekusa.
Cerezo came back down to earth with a bump after their 2-1 victory over Gamba in the weekend’s Osaka derby, losing 2-1 to Jubilo Itawa at the Yamaha Stadium. Despite Branquinho scoring the game’s opening goal after 38 minutes, a reply on 59 minutes from Takuya Matsuura and then a winner with two minutes of normal time remaining gave the 2010 Nabisco Cup champions the spoils.
Omiya Ardija and Yokohama F-Marinos shared the points in a 1-1 draw at the NACK5 Stadium. Carlinhos gave the home team the lead on 15 minutes, but Manabu Saito popped up with six minutes remaining to salvage a point.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Group A) and Shimizu S-Pulse (Group B) did not play, and will be in action on Matchday Two, 4 April.