Sendai start well, Marinos knock Kashima
Vegalta Sendai celebrated the re-start of the J.League with a 2-1 victory in Kawasaki but Kashima Antlers fell 3-0 to Yokohama F. Marinos in a home game played in Tokyo due to the damage caused to their Ibaraki Stadium by last month's devastating earthquake.
The J.League had been suspended since last month's natural disaster and playing in heavy rain and wind at Todoroki Stadium, Sendai battled hard from the start, but it was the hosts who took the upper hand in the 37th minute.
Kawasaki defender Yusuke Tanaka received a pass from Koji Yamase and fired past Sendai goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi from inside the box to open the scoring. With 15,030 fans cheering in the stands, Kawasaki came close again with Kengo Nakamura's mid-range effort shortly before the hour mark.
However, Vegalta, who also had their club facilities damaged by the earthquake, looked to have all the momentum after forward Yuki Nakashima came off the bench in the 62nd minute.
The visitors then levelled the scores in the 73rd minute. Yoshiaki Ota received a pass from forward Shingo Akamine and struck a shot from the right of the box that hit Kawasaki defender Tomonobu Yokoyama before finding the net.
Kawasaki's new coach Naoki Soma brought on Brazilian forward Juninho in the 78th minute but the decisive moment came with three minutes to go when Nakashima was brought down by Yokoyama on the right flank to win a free-kick.
Korea DPR international Ryang Yong-Gi picked out Jiro Kamata with the set-piece and he rose high at the far post to head home the winning goal. "I was so moved to cry when the game was over," said Vegalta coach Makoto Teguramori.
"We gave away the first goal but fought hard physically to level the scores. We had the back-up from our supporters, as well. I think the winning goal was possessed by the emotions of the people in the whole country."
Soma added: "This was probably the hardest game for us this season, and we gave up two goals to their strong determination for winning."
Marinos clinical in front of goal
In Tokyo, Marinos were on the back foot but proved clinical in front of goal, scoring three times in just four attempts.
Yokohama midfielder Shohei Ogura opened the scoring in the third minute after pouncing on a loose ball and defender Yuzo Kurihara slotted home when Kashima failed to clear in the 76th minute. An own goal from Kashima defender Daiki Iwamasa completed the scoring in stoppage time.
Elsewhere, Leandro Domingues scored the game's only goal in the 55th minute as Kashiwa Reysol won 1-0 at Omiya Ardija. Shimizu S-Pulse edged out Avispa Fukuoka 1-0 thanks to young forward Genki Omae's free-kick in the 80th minute. Finally, Ventforet Kofu were held to a 1-1 draw by Vissel Kobe at home.