Last-gasp Frontale nick point
Hiroki Ito struck in stoppage time to help Kawasaki Frontale salvage a 1-1 draw against Shimizu S-Pulse and reduce the gap to J. League leaders Kashima Antlers to seven points.
In torrential rain at Todoroki Stadium, Shimizu began aggressively and kept Kawasaki goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima busy with attempts from Daisuke Ichikawa, Takuma Edamura and Keisuke Iwashita, but the sides went in at the break goalless.
Frontale manager Takashi Sekizuka made some tactical adjustments early in the second half, sending on Renatinho, and the Brazilian forward went close in the 57th minute from Juninho's pass.
Shimizu took the lead in the 78th minute, however, thanks to good work by Marcos Paulo. The Brazilian midfielder intercepted a pass from Kengo Nakamura, surged forward and laid the ball off to Ichikawa. The former Japan full-back then delivered a cross that Iwashita headed home at the far post.
Frontale rallied with Juninho and Renatinho both coming close to levelling. Kawasaki's efforts paid off in the stoppage time, however, when Ito met Nakamura's free-kick with a fine header for a crucial equaliser.
"It took so long to find the net, but I'm glad I could do it," said Ito.
"It was a game we had to win, but we were not playing so well tonight and tried to come away with at least one point."
Elsewhere, Sanfrecce Hiroshima moved up to third with a 2-1 win at Montedio Yamagata. Isseki Takayanagi's 63rd-minute opener was cancelled out by Tatsuya Furuhashi in the 72nd minute, but Japan international forward Hisato Sato struck the winner in the 81st minute for his 11th goal of the campaign.
Finally, Kashiwa Reysol went down to ten men soon after the break, but battled hard to draw 0-0 with Kyoto Sanga at home. Kashiwa are now unbeaten in their last four matches.