KASHIWA, CHIBA PREF. – Brazilian striker Pedro Junior struck a superb winner as reigning champions Kashima Antlers smashed Kashiwa Reysol’s 10-match unbeaten streak with a 3-2 away victory in the J. League on Sunday night.
Kashima benefited from two costly errors by Kashiwa goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura to take a 2-1 lead in a pulsating encounter, and although Cristiano leveled for Reysol, Pedro Junior had the last word with the clincher 18 minutes from time.
The result saw Kashiwa concede top spot in the table to Cerezo Osaka (35 points) at the halfway stage of the season. Cerezo came from behind to win 3-1 at home to FC Tokyo. Kashiwa (34) is second and Kashima (33) third with a game in hand on the top two.
“We knew before the game how tough our opponents would be and things got even harder when we conceded the first goal,” said Pedro Junior.
“I got the (winning) goal but that aside you have to give credit to the whole team. I thought overall we had the upper hand today.
“Still, we haven’t achieved anything yet, we have simply beaten the team (that was) at the top of the table and we just have to get ourselves ready for the next game.”
Reysol were the more industrious of the two sides in the opening stages, and they took the lead on 24 minutes, Cristiano taking Naoki Wako’s square pass and teeing up captain Hidekazu Otani to drill home.
Cristiano nearly doubled the lead with a shot that fizzed just wide before Junior had the ball in the net at the other end, only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul on Nakamura.
Excellent cover from Wako prevented Leandro from squeezing his shot inside the near post after the Brazilian had rounded Nakamura just before the break.
Veteran Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata was brought on to replace Kwoun Sun-tae early in the second half, the South Korean suffering an injury after spilling Cristiano’s shot, and Antlers equalized soon afterwards.
Mu Kanazaki cut inside from the left flank and rattled a shot in off the crossbar that Nakamura will probably feel he should have saved.
Things went from bad to worse for the Japan reserve goalkeeper, who got his positioning all wrong and allowed Ryota Nagaki’s free kick from way out on the left flank to sail over his head and into the back of the net.
Kashiwa responded immediately, however, as Cristiano controlled a pass from Ryuta Koike and drilled through the legs of Kashima defender Kento Misao on the goal line to make it 2-2 from close range on 62 minutes.
But the pendulum swung once again in Kashima’s favor as Pedro Junior collected a throw-in from Shuto Yamamoto and beat two defenders before rifling a deflected shot in off the far post.
In Sunday’s other game, Ventforet Kofu were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Sagan Tosu.