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Soccer: Kanazaki heads winner as Grampus end Frontale's unbeaten run

Mu Kanazaki, 2nd from left, scores the winning header as Nagoya Grampus hand Kawasaki Frontale their first defeat of the season in the J-League on Aug. 23, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOYOTA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Mu Kanazaki scored the only goal of the game on Sunday as Nagoya Grampus handed Kawasaki Frontale their first defeat of the season in the J-League first division after a 10-game winning run.

    Kanazaki, part of the Grampus squad that won their only league title back in 2010, returned on loan from Sagan Tosu this season after seven years away and scored his first goal since the move, banging in a header on the stroke of half-time following a cross from Mateus at Toyota Stadium.

    Kawasaki began with a 10-point lead at the top of the table with 34 goals from 11 games, while Nagoya have transformed into a solid outfit under manager Massimo Ficcadenti following his appointment last September, shipping only eight goals this season.

    Frontale thought they had scored after just five minutes when quick passes released former Mallorca star Akihiro Ienaga down the right flank. His cut back from inside the box was met by Hidemasa Morita only to see his low effort cleared off the line by Shinnosuke Nakatani.

    Defender Miki Yamane also went close in the 17th minute after picking up a loose ball deep in the opposing half and driving into the box, only for Australian keeper Mitchell Langerak to make the save.

    Grampus had their first chance in the 27th minute when a fierce cross from the right by Kanazaki was half-cleared to Gabriel Xavier. But he was denied by a desperate block from fellow Brazilian Jesiel.

    Nagoya gradually began to dominate possession and scored a minute from halftime after Sho Inagaki's cross-field ball found Mateus on the left. The Brazilian's set-pieces had been troubling Frontale's defense and he now provided the crucial delivery to Kanazaki.

    "A good ball came in so I just had to keep my eyes on it and meet it," said Kanazaki, whose hold-up play and dribbles up front also allowed Grampus to threaten after the break. "We did what the other team didn't want us to do throughout the 90 minutes."

    Ficcadenti told his team the second half was going to be the toughest 45 minutes of the season, and Frontale regained a midfield foothold with the introduction of Japan international Ryota Oshima and Reo Hatate.

    But the exit of dynamic midfielder Kaoru Mitoma lessened the visitors' ability to threaten on the left. The 23-year-old first-year pro has been in superb form, having scored in five straight league and cup games.

    Substitute Yu Kobayashi and Jesiel both tried their luck from distance in stoppage time but were both thwarted by Langerak as Kawasaki failed to break down the stubborn Nagoya defense. The win left Grampus on 23 points, eight behind the leaders.

    "It was a win beyond measure and one that also made me realize how strong they (Kawasaki) are," Ficcadenti said. "It gives us confidence about what we're doing on a daily basis. Both sides had chances, but we were the one who ground out the result."

    Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers drew 1-1 at home to Gamba Osaka with Tomoya Inukai's last-minute header. The game was the swan song for Antlers' former Japan international and Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida, who announced his retirement this past week.

    "I've seen my veteran teammates putting their careers on the line every day, the thing that has been the foundation Kashima's many trophies," Uchida said.

    "Because my body is not getting back to what it was before, I feel I am unable to provide that kind of example for my younger teammates," said the 32-year-old, who received messages including one from the club and from Brazil legend Zico in a post-match ceremony.

    "The weight of playing for my country, wearing the Japanese flag on my uniform, the pain and joy of playing in frantic German stadiums are now my treasures."

    At Osaka's Yanmar Stadium, Tatsuhiro Sakamoto netted the winner for Cerezo Osaka as they remained second, a point ahead of Nagoya, with a 2-1 home win over Vegalta Sendai. FC Tokyo are fourth after a 3-0 home win over Shonan Bellmare.

    Vissel Kobe won 2-1 at Urawa Reds, Yokohama F Marinos won 3-1 at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Oita Trinita drew 0-0 at home with Kashiwa Reysol.

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