The Kansai derby between Kyoto Sanga and Gamba Osaka may have featured an intriguing clash of Koreans at Nishikyogoku Stadium on Sunday, but referee Nobutsugu Murakami stole the show with a performance that had Gamba coach Akira Nishino spitting chips.
“No J. League match should ever be refereed the way it was,” an exasperated Nishino claimed – after seeing his side earn five yellow cards and concede a dubious penalty against their regional rivals.
Murakami’s performance overshadowed a clash of the K-League stars, as former Suwon Bluewings defender Lee Jung-Soo lined up for Kyoto against Gamba defender Park Dong-Hyuk – once of Ulsan Hyundai – and former Jeonbuk Toto Hk Motors striker Cho Jae-Jin.
It was Lee Jung-Soo who came out on top, and he opened the scoring with a thunderous header in first half stoppage time, after Kyoto striker Paulinho had been stretchered from the field early on – following some hefty treatment from Park Dong-Hyuk and co.
Kyoto were aided by a contentious penalty decision ten minutes after the restart, as Gamba keeper Yosuke Fujigaya was adjudged to have brought down veteran striker Atsushi Yanagisawa.
Brazilian playmaker Diego kept his cool to beat Fujigaya from the spot, and substitute Shinichi Terada’s late strike – which ironically took a hefty deflection off Lee Jung-Soo – came too late for reigning Asian champions Gamba.
In the other Sunday games, Japan international Shinzo Koroki came off the bench to score a late winner for Kashima Antlers in their hard-fought 2-1 win over last season’s J2 champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Nagoya Grampus thumped Tokai rivals Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 – with Brazilian striker Davi scoring twice – while JEF United held highly fancied Kawasaki Frontale to a 1-1 draw in Chiba.
The Saturday fixtures were largely low-scoring affairs, although fans in Europe will have been delighted to have tuned into a 3-3 draw between Yokohama F. Marinos and Kashiwa Reysol on cable network Eurosport.
The hosts twice blew a two-goal lead, as bleach-blonde striker Kenta Kano headed home a pinpoint Takanobu Komiyama cross just two minutes in, before veteran defender Yuji Nakazawa took advantage of Kashiwa’s non-existent defence to double the Tricolore’s advantage.
Kashiwa responded when Kota Sugiyama’s deflected strike wrong-footed Tetsuya Enomoto in the Marinos goal, but the Kanagawa giants restored their two goal lead when youngster Kazuma Watanabe headed home in stoppage time just before the break.
Two minutes after the restart the outstanding Komiyama sent a twenty-five yard piledriver crashing against the upright, and that miss was to prove costly as Brazilian veteran Franca opened his account for the season midway through the second half.
With Reysol pouring forward and Marinos looking decidedly edgy at the back, it was no surprise to see the visitors conjure a late equaliser – but what a goal it was, as substitute Popo registered his contender for goal-0f-the-month with a screamer from the edge of the area.
FC Tokyo registered their first win of the campaign as they laboured to a 1-0 victory over promoted Montedio Yamagata, while the other games all ended in draws.
Jubilo Iwata were unfortunate not to beat Urawa Reds as diminutive striker Gilsinho struck the base of the post in the dying minutes with the scores locked at 1-1, while Omiya Ardija and Vissel Kobe played out a forgettable 1-1 draw. Albirex Niigata moved to the top of the table despite being held to a scoreless draw away at Oita Trinita.
In J2, Ventforet Kofu beat Consadole Sapporo 2-0 in front of 11,252 fans at Kose Sports Park thanks in part to two superb strikes from Yohei Onishi.
He caught Sapporo keeper Yuya Sato off-guard by blasting a thirty yard free-kick straight into the top corner in the first half, and soon after Onishi doubled his team’s advantage with a peach of a finish, as he picked the bottom corner of Sato’s goal following a free-flowing counter-attack.
The visitors hit back on the hour mark through defender Hiroyuki Nishijima’s header, but despite Kofu striker Maranhao’s inability to add to the scoreline late on, it was the mountain men from Yamanashi who deservedly held on to the points.
Elsewhere Vegalta Sendai beat Sagan Tosu 1-0 in front of 16,372 fans in Sendai, while 7,297 fans were on hand to see Thespa Kusatsu beat Yokohama FC at Shoda Stadium.
Thespa are one of four teams to have won their opening three league fixtures, with Shikoku side Ehime FC the surprise league leaders from Cerezo Osaka, while Kusatsu and Shonan Bellmare round out the top four.