Vegalta Sendai held Nagoya Grampus to a 1-1 draw in the J-League first division Saturday, taking an early lead through Simao Mate before conceding an equalizer to Hiroyuki Abe ahead of halftime.
The hosts withstood a succession of late chances for Grampus at Yurtec Stadium to secure a share of the points in the opening round of the season.
Center back Simao gave Takashi Kiyama’s side the lead following a set piece in the 18th minute.
Having regained possession after Grampus cleared Takumi Sasaki’s free kick, Vegalta forward Shuhei Akasaki sent a ball into the box for the team’s Mozambique-born captain, who hit the woodwork with a header but tapped in his own rebound.
Abe finished an eye-pleasing counterattack to even the slate in the 34th minute. Naoki Maeda set the table by storming down the right and pulling a pass back from the goal line, with Mateus stepping over to let Abe fire home from the middle of the box.
Despite roughly 60 percent of possession and a 19-11 lead in the shot count, Massimo Ficcadenti’s men were unable to press home the advantage.
They missed a chance to take the lead in the 74th minute following a set piece, when Abe shot wide after winning a race to the ball at the top corner of the area.
The visitors blew an even better opportunity three minutes later, when Yuki Soma, through on goal off a one-two with Abe, missed to the right.
Vegalta keeper Jakub Slowik kept his side on level terms in the 86th minute, stopping Ryogo Yamasaki one on one after Abe picked out the substitute forward directly in front with a well-placed cross.
Things became testy soon afterward, with several players becoming involved in a shoving match in the center of the pitch.
Promoted Kashiwa Reysol beat Consadole Sapporo 4-2 at home behind braces from Ataru Esaka and Olunga. Kawasaki Frontale were held at home to a scoreless draw by Sagan Tosu.
Cerezo Osaka opened the scoring in the eighth minute through Bruno Mendes and held on to beat visiting Oita Trinita 1-0.
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