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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vegalta's lead shrinks


KAWASAKI — Vegalta Sendai saw their lead at the top of the J.League table shrivel to two points going into the international break after suffering a stinging 3-2 stoppage-time defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.

News photo
Disappointing finish: Vegalta Sendai players react after their 3-2 stoppage time loss to Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday in the J.League. KYODO

Kawasaki target man Takuro Yajima headed home the last of five goals in the 92nd minute at Todoroki Stadium, where Makoto Teguramori's men lost for just the second time in 13 games this season.

Second-place Sanfrecce Hiroshima improved to 25 points after bullying Consadole Sapporo 3-1 away, with Jubilo Iwata trailing by another point following their 4-0 home win over Omiya Ardija.

J1 reconvenes on June 16, after Japan has played Oman, Jordan and Australia in the final round of World Cup qualifiers.

"We made all the adjustments we had to leading up to the point in the second half when we took the lead," Teguramori said. "But I thought we showed a lot of heart. I was proud of the way we tried to pick each other up with the injuries we have.

"I don't think we deserved to lose today, and the boys know that. We showed what we're about. The result just didn't go our way."

Kawasaki, which moved within five points of Sendai with the victory, had lost its last two at home in the league and league cup.

Saturday was the first time Frontale came from behind to win under manager Yahiro Kazama, who took over a month ago for Naoki Soma.

"We hadn't won here the last two times out and facing the top team in J1 in Sendai, we had plenty of motivation," Kawasaki's Japan midfielder Kengo Nakamura said.

"It was great to not just win, but to win so dramatically. We're getting there day by day under our manager."

Sendai was missing Japanese international Kunimitsu Sekiguchi in midfield as well as defender Taikai Uemoto, but it hardly slowed down the juggernauts from the northeast.

Vegalta conceded the opener in the 20th minute, Yu Kobayashi scoring from close range off the hand of goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi, but had moved in front before the hour with their non-stop running game.

Sendai first leveled in the 24th minute through Shingo Tomita, who pounced on a poorly cleared ball by Kobayashi from 25 meters for just the second goal of his 70-match career.

The visitors made it 2-1 in the 54th minute when Wilson, after a Toshihiro Matsushita cross, stroked home his fifth goal of the season from well outside the penalty area.

Vegalta, though, were caught napping seven minutes later as Frontale restored parity with Kyohei Noborizato's maiden strike of the campaign.

Sendai pushed up looking to reestablish its lead, but its usual flair for the dramatics belonged to Kawasaki on this afternoon as the hosts claimed the three points in injury time, when Akito Fukumori crossed for Yajima by the right-hand post.

Elsewhere in J1, Akira Nishino failed to mark his debut as Vissel coach, losing 2-1 to Kashima Antlers in Kobe. Vissel now have lost their last three.

Champions Kashiwa Reysol beat Albirex Niigata 2-0 at home for their third consecutive victory, while Masato Morishige bailed out FC Tokyo with a 91st-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Urawa Reds at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Shimizu S-Pulse pulled within four points of Sendai after a 0-0 home draw to Yokohama F. Marinos.

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