Late Kobayashi Winner Sends Frontale Into Playoffs

Late Kobayashi winner sends Frontale into playoffsYu Kobayashi struck in the 105th minute as Kawasaki Frontale qualified for their first J. League Championship Playoff with a dramatic 3-2 win over Yokohama F. Marinos on Sunday.
Kenta Kano and Koji Miyoshi had given Kawasaki a two-goal lead going into injury time but with nine minutes added on because of Frontale goalkeeper Shota Arai’s second-half injury substitution, Marinos managed to level with goals from Kosuke Nakamachi and Sho Ito in the 96th and 98th minutes.

Yet Kawasaki had the last laugh as Kobayashi glanced a header past Marinos keeper Tetsuya Enomoto seconds from the final whistle, sending the crowd of 25,017 at Todoroki Stadium into delirium.

“We had to try to stay focused on the match after we had an injury to deal with,” Frontale midfielder Ryota Oshima said. “We almost lost it there mentally.

“We lost the last time out and couldn’t afford to lose another game. The important thing is to have confidence in our style of football and stick to it. We need to look out for one another.”

The three points allowed Frontale to keep their grip on the top spot of the overall standings (66 points) while securing them a top-three finish for the year — and a place in the playoffs for the first time.

Second-stage leaders Urawa Reds also guaranteed themselves a top-three finish for the season with a comfortable 3-0 home victory against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, with goals from Shinzo Koroki and Toshiyuki Takagi as well as an own goal.

Reds, who trail Frontale by two points on the yearlong table, are headed to the playoff for the second straight season. Urawa has a three-point lead over Kawasaki in the second stage with four games remaining.

In Osaka, Gamba settled for a 3-3 draw against FC Tokyo, dropping to third in the second-stage title race. Vissel Kobe pummeled relegation-threatened Avispa Fukuoka 4-1 away, and last-place Shonan Bellmare drew 0-0 at Jubilo Iwata.

Both Shonan and Fukuoka could be relegated on Saturday.

Nagoya Grampus defeated Vegalta 2-1 in Sendai, Kashima Antlers won 2-0 away over Albirex Niigata and Kashiwa Reysol edged Ventforet Kofu 1-0 at home.

Omiya Ardija drew 1-1 at home against Sagan Tosu.