Tuesday, January 25 2022

Kawasaki Frontale won their fourth J-League title in five years on Wednesday, drawing 1-1 with Urawa Reds to open up an unassailable 13-point lead with four games remaining.

Second-place Yokohama F. Marinos needed to match Frontale’s result in their game against Gamba Osaka — which kicked off at the same time — to keep their title hopes alive.

But a 1-0 defeat for Marinos handed the trophy to defending champions Frontale, who can also claim a second straight league-and-cup double before the season is over.

“I’m very happy to win the title at home in front of lots of our fans,” said Frontale manager Toru Oniki, who has been in charge for all four league title wins.

“I wanted to clinch it with a win, but this is the result of the points we’ve earned over the whole season and I’m very proud of the players.”

Frontale dominated the J-League virtually from start to finish, going top of the table after two games and staying there all season.

Marinos cut the gap to one point over the summer, but Frontale put together a seven-game winning streak to pull clear heading into Wednesday’s game.

They have lost only once this season, and have racked up a J-League record 85 points with four games still to play.

“We’ve always been aiming to win the title, from the start right through the period where we looked like we might have a little wobble,” said Oniki.

“We’ve always been able to stay calm, emotionally.”

The J-League’s relaxed attendance restrictions meant Frontale welcomed a national holiday crowd of 11,600 for the early afternoon kick-off against Urawa.

Brazilian defender Jesiel Miranda broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, poking home a scrappy goal after a headed knock-down from compatriot Leandro Damiao.

A 55th-minute goal for Gamba against Marinos sent a wave of expectation throughout the stadium, and Frontale got the job done despite an 89th-minute equaliser from Urawa’s Hiroki Sakai.

“No one in the crowd was celebrating or commiserating straight after the final whistle, so I didn’t know what the situation was,” said Oniki.

“You always feel bad when you concede a last-minute equaliser, but we were talking about celebrating if it was confirmed we had won the title.”



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