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Soccer: Muto spurs Vissel comeback in draw with Grampus

Yoshinori Muto of Vissel Kobe scores in the second half of a J-League first division match against Nagoya Grampus on Oct. 24, 2021, at Toyota Stadium in central Japan. (Kyodo)

TOYOTA, Aichi (Kyodo) -- Yoshinori Muto helped spark a second-half comeback as Vissel Kobe scored twice from set pieces in a 2-2 away draw against Nagoya Grampus in the J-League first division on Sunday.

    Trailing since the opening minutes in a battle between two teams tussling for a top-three finish and a spot in next year's Asian Champions League, Muto scored Vissel's first from a corner, before Andres Iniesta scored from the spot in the 81st minute after Muto was fouled in the area at Toyota Stadium.

    "We didn't play well from the get-go, but we weren't going to give up in the second half and just let it stay 2-0," said Muto, the former Newcastle United man who joined Vissel in the summer after six years in Europe.

    "From the standpoint of the team it was a game that gave us something to build on moving forward."

    The draw left Vissel third on 61 points, and Grampus fourth on 58 and leading fifth-place Urawa Reds on goal difference.

    The hosts drew first blood, Gabriel Xavier's long diagonal pass unleashed Yuki Soma down the left flank from where he crossed to Naoki Maeda. Unmarked in front of the goal, Maeda had an easy tap-in after keeper Hiroki Iikura slipped on the turf.

    Grampus keeper Mitch Langerak made a nice save in the 11th minute on a header set up by a super pass from Iniesta, and things continued to go Grampus' way. Midfielder Sho Inagaki cut off a Vissel pass and launched a counter with a through ball to Jakub Swierczok.

    The Pole embarrassed defender Ryuho Kikuchi, evading two of his attempted tackles before scoring through another defender's legs.

    Fourteen minutes after the break, the visitors converted a corner kick that floated toward the back of the penalty area. Defender Thomas Vermaelen bounced his header to Muto, who beat a defender to the ball and poked home from inside the six-yard box.

    Muto helped create the equalizer. Two defenders closed in on him in the area in the 76th minute. He fell when defender Yutaka Yoshida stumbled into him from behind and the VAR indicated a penalty was warranted. As Langerak dove to his left, Iniesta fired into the top of the net to level the scores.

    Elsewhere, Consadole Sapporo were held to a scoreless draw at home against Avispa Fukuoka in their mid-table clash. In Kawasaki, a 47th-minute Leandro Damiao goal was all leaders Frontale needed in a 1-0 win over Shimizu S-pulse, who remain two points clear of the drop zone.

    Frontale extended their lead over second-placed Yokohama F Marinos to 12 points after Marinos lost 2-1 away to Cerezo Osaka.

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