Two members of Japan’s under-23 team for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics made their presence felt in the J.League on Saturday, leading their teams to victories in the opening matches of the top division’s second stage.
Frontale midfielder Ryota Oshima set up Kawasaki’s opening goal then became part of the team’s wall to block Vegalta’s counterattacks as Kawasaki beat host Sendai 3-0 at Yurtec Stadium Sendai.
Meanwhile in Fukuoka, Urawa Reds forward Shinzo Koroki, who was chosen as one of the three overage players for the Olympic team, scored the go-ahead goal as 10-man Reds rallied to beat host Avispa Fukuoka 2-1 at Level5 Stadium.
Oshima showcased his wide-ranging vision and technique in front of under-23 team manager Makoto Teguramori. In the 17th minute, Oshima sent a deft, high-arching pass to forward Yu Kobayashi, who was sprinting into the right side of the box. Kobayashi headed the pass to forward Shohei Otsuka, who struck the ball home.
After Frontale doubled the lead in the 21st minute, defensive midfielder Oshima then devoted himself to covering a lot of space in the middle of the pitch to prevent Vegalta’s counterattacks, helping Frontale maintain its clean sheet.
In Fukuoka, Avispa took the lead from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute as Urawa defender Tomoaki Makino was sent off after conceding the spot kick.
However, after Reds leveled the score 1-1 in the 43rd minute, Koroki grabbed the go-ahead goal in the 64th minute. With his back to the goal, the 29-year-old forward received a pass inside the box and fired a shot past a defender and the goalkeeper as he turned.
“I need to leave something for the team [before the Rio Games],” Koroki said. “I’m happy to get the three points.”