Olunga tightens grip on Golden Boot award

Kashiwa Reysol striker Michael Olunga (left) with teammates after losing 2-1 to Sagan Tosu during their J1 League match on November 21, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The Kenyan international scored in the 87th minute after connecting to a cross from right back Kengo Kitazume that was headed his way by Hiroto Goya
  • Kashiwa stays 10th on the log with 41 points from 27 matches, while Sagan climbs one spot to 14th displacing Yokohama FC who are not in action until November 25
  • Kashiwa will visit fourth-ranked Kashima in their next match on November 25

Michael Olunga inched closer to claiming Golden Boot award in Japan’s J1 League after netting his 24th goal of the season as Kashiwa Reysol lost 2-1 to Sagan Tosu at Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium on Saturday.

It was Kashiwa’s first match since October 31 after three weeks of coronavirus-enforced break. The Kenyan international scored in the 87th minute after connecting to a cross from right back Kengo Kitazume that was headed his way by Hiroto Goya.

It was Olunga’s first goal in the last three matches and his 25th in all competitions this season.

The 26-year-old centre-forward had gone two matches without scoring after he was left out of the squad when Kashiwa drew 0-0 against Shimizu S-Pulse on October 31 and had contributed two assists for Brazilian Cristiano when they demolished FC Tokyo 3-1 on October 28.

Olunga’s last goal had been against Gamba Osaka when they went down 3-1 in Osaka on October 24.

The deadly virus then struck Kashiwa's camp on November 2 leading to postponement of all its activities, including league matches against Vegalta Sendai (November 3) and Oita Trinita (November 14) and Levain Cup final against FC Tokyo (November 7).

On Saturday, Nelsinho’s men were chasing their first win against Sagan after five failed attempts but nothing seemed to work for them in the second leg.

After a barren first half, error-prone Kashiwa conceded the first goal in the 54th minute from a counter-attack situation completed superbly by Hayashi.

Moments later, Kashiwa survived another scare after committing another defensive blunder but the visitors missed the target.

Three minutes after resting playmaker Ataru Esaka and bringing on Goya, Kashiwa fell further behind in the 66th minute through Sagan midfielder Fuchi Honda.

Olunga then missed a decent chance after Sagan’s second goal. Kashiwa’s South Korean goalkeeper Kim made a fine save on the goal line before Olunga netted their consolation.

Kashiwa stays 10th on the log with 41 points from 27 matches, while Sagan climbs one spot to 14th displacing Yokohama FC who are not in action until November 25 when they entertain Shimizu S-Pulse. Seventeenth-placed Shimizu was thrashed 5-1 by 13th-placed Sapporo on Saturday.

In other matches held on Saturday, Oita hit leaders Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 as Vegalta remained rooted at the bottom after losing 3-1 to their guests Kashima Antlers.

Olunga’s closest rival in the top scorer’s race, Everaldo took his tally to 16 after he opened the scores for Kashima and then contributed assists for fellow Brazilian Juan Matheus Alano Nascimento and Japanese forward Ayase Ueda.

Kashiwa will visit fourth-ranked Kashima in their next match on November 25.

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