Wednesday, October 14th was an emotional day for Noriaki Fujimoto, as the 31-year old Osaka native managed to score past his former club Oita Trinita. However, Fujimoto's Vissel Kobe ended their J.League 1 Matchweek 22 encounter with the Turtles in disappointment as a late Gotoku Sakai own-goal meant that they had to share the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Misaki Park Stadium.
Having worked his way up the Japanese football pyramid with both Kagoshima United and Oita, Fujimoto had proven to everyone that he can score goals after goals in the J1 with Oita in the first half of the 2019 season. However, halfway through the season, Fujimoto switched allegiances to star-studded Vissel, much to the dismay of the Oita fans. Fujimoto's debut happened to be a J1 match against Oita at the Showa Denko Dome and he was booed by the Oita supporters as he came off the bench on that day.
With their winning start underneath new head coach Atsuhiro Miura coming into a screeching halt at Kashiwa Reysol over the weekend, Vissel were looking to start things again with a win over visiting Oita, who themselves are trying to recover from a 4-0 beatdown at the hands of Yokohama F. Marinos last time out. And things look to be going Vissel's way after they took the lead in the 6th minute. A lob pass by Keijiro Ogawa was greeted by a looping header from Fujimoto, with the ball going above Oita goalkeeper Mun Kyung-gun's head and into the goal. 1-0 Vissel and Fujimoto celebrated the goal with his teammates - something that would definitely not go down very well with the Oita supporters.
Kei Chinen almost gave an immediate response for Oita, seizing an error from Vissel goalkeeper Kenshin Yoshimaru, however the youngster's attempt struck the goalpost with the ball being rebounded back into Yoshimaru's hands.
Oita then had another go in the 15th minute, with a cross from Yuta Koide being welcomed by both a header from Chinen and Yoshimaru trying to punch the ball away, resulting in the two colliding in front of the Vissel goal. Both Yoshimaru and Ryuho Kikuchi then denied both Chinen and Naoki Nomura shortly afterwards, with Oita clearly going all gusto in chasing for that equalizer.
Daiki Watari found his 22nd minute header being tipped over the bar by Yoshimaru, before Oita were further frustrated by Yoshimaru in the 50th minute after the Vissel keeper had punched away an attempt by Nomura. A 62nd minute corner saw Chinen once again rifling a header towards goal, only for Yoshimaru to once again intervene. Nomura tried to pounce on the rebound but Yoshimaru was faster, and the ball soon found itself being taken into Yoshimaru's hands.
Oita kept on knocking and finally in the 86th minute they found an answer. A Tomoki Iwata cross was met by a sliding attempt by substitute Yuya Takazawa, who happened to have Sakai marking him closely. The ball was slotted into Yoshimaru's goal, not by Takazawa, but by Sakai, meaning that Oita's equalizer was counted as an own-goal from the former Hamburger SV man.
Stung by that equalizer, Vissel immediately used the remainder of the match to chase for a winner, with a 89th minute attempt by Junya Tanaka being deflected away to safety by Mun. In the end, Vissel were unable to get themselves that all-important winner with so little time remaining in the match and they were forced to share the points in the 1-1 draw.
Elsewhere in the J1, Kawasaki Frontale won yet again to further consolidate themselves in the league summit, this time beating Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 away from home. Kashima Antlers plundered a 2-0 win away at Sagan Tosu, while Vegalta Sendai played out a goalless draw with Yokohama FC at the Yurtec Stadium. Kashiwa were forced to a 1-1 draw at home by Urawa Red Diamonds, while both Gamba Osaka and Yokohama also played out a 1-1 draw at the Panasonic Stadium Suita. FC Tokyo managed to win 3-1 over Shimizu S-Pulse at the Ajinomoto Stadium, while last-placed Shonan Bellmare were beaten 1-0 away at Cerezo Osaka. Last but not least, Nagoya Grampus managed to dish out a 3-0 beatdown of Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium.