Domestic Leagues

East Asia Wrap: Kawasaki, Jeonbuk march on as Gamba return to action

Hong Kong: Kawasaki Frontale and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors recorded further wins at the weekend as the defending champions in Japan and Korea Republic continued their excellent form at the beginning of the 2021 campaign. 

Also in Japan, Gamba Osaka were back in action for the first time since the opening round of J1 League fixtures following the Covid-19 outbreak within their squad as they played just their second game of the season.

And Kitchee SC maintained their lead at the Hong Kong Premier League summit after another convincing performance, so join as we review the action from across East Asia.

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Japan: Kawasaki win again, Gamba return with a draw

It's now seven wins from eight for Kawasaki Frontale in the 2021 J1 League season after Kaoru Mitoma scored a goal in each half to secure a 2-0 victory over Oita Trinita as the defending champions also maintained their unbeaten run.

That result coupled with second-placed Nagoya Grampus being held to a goalless draw by FC Tokyo saw Kawasaki extend their advantage at the top to three points while Nagoya, who have a game in hand on the pacesetters, dropped their first points of the campaign.

Having not played since an opening-day defeat to Vissel Kobe after their squad was hit by a Covid-19 outbreak, Gamba Osaka played their first competitive game since late February.

And the Osaka side's 0-0 draw with Sanfrecce Hiroshima at least ensured they moved off the bottom of the table. With numerous games to make up on their J1 League rivals, Gamba will now look to rise up the table in the coming weeks.

The league's second Osaka side, third-placed Cerezo, continued their recent good form by posting a 1-0 victory over Sagan Tosu on Friday night in a game that saw their opponents concede for the first time this season.

First-half goals from Kyogo Furuhashi and Ryuho Kikuchi, meanwhile, helped Vissel jump to fifth following a 2-0 win over Vegalta Sendai, who fell to the bottom of the standings.

Kashima Antlers' poor run of form of late continued as they lost their third successive league game after Tomoaki Makino's second-half penalty secured a 2-1 win for Urawa Red Diamonds.

The 2019 champions Yokohama F. Marinos remain in mid-table following a 1-1 stalemate against Shonan Bellmare, while Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo won for the first time since the opening day after seeing off Avispa Fukuoka 2-1 and Yokohama FC played out a 0-0 draw against Kashiwa Reysol.

Finally, newly promoted Tokushima Vortis claimed an impressive 3-0 away win at Shimizu S-Pulse, with their second successive win seeing them move into the top half of the table.

Korea Republic: Jeonbuk win at Suwon, Ulsan rise to second

Another game, another goal for Stanislav Iljutcenko as the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors frontman scored for the fourth match in a row in his side's convincing 3-1 win over Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Choi Bo-kyung gave the defending champions a first-half lead before Iljutcenko and Modou Barrow added further goals in the final 20 minutes, with former Jeonbuk player Yeom Ki-hun's stoppage-time penalty merely a consolation for the hosts.

Ulsan Hyundai lead the chasing pack after Lee Dong-jun's goal midway through the first half was enough to edge a narrow 1-0 victory at Seongnam FC as the 2020 AFC Champions League winners picked up their first win in four games.

FC Seoul dropped to third as a late Ko Moo-yeol penalty saw the capital city side fall to a 1-0 home loss against Gangwon, while Pohang Steelers and Daegu FC played out a goalless draw on Friday.

Suwon FC remain bottom of the table but recorded their first win of the campaign as Cho Yu-min struck in stoppage time to seal a 2-1 victory over Jeju United, and Gwangju FC also netted at the death to defeat Incheon United by the same scoreline.

The 12 teams will return to action on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a full set of K League 1 fixtures to take place in the coming days.

Hong Kong: Kitchee make it 10 unbeaten

Defending Hong Kong Premier League champions Kitchee SC have now gone 10 games without defeat at the beginning of the 2021 campaign after they secured a 2-0 win over Lee Man on Friday.

Matthew Orr and Manu Gavilan each scored in the second half over their third-placed opponents as Kitchee maintained their hugely impressive start to the season.

Eastern SC are four points back, but with a game in hand, after easing to a 5-0 victory against Resources Capital, while Happy Valley overcame BC Rangers 2-1.


Photo: Gamba Osaka

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