Theerathon fires Yokohama F. Marinos on their way to 2019 J1 League crown

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Yokohama F. Marinos have ended a 15-year wait to be crowned champions of Japan as they beat FC Tokyo 3-0 on Saturday to win the 2019 J1 League title.

Following a late-season surge, Marinos headed into the game at the Nissan Stadium three points ahead of second-placed Tokyo and with a superior goal difference – meaning they only had to avoid losing by four goals or more to seal the crown.

Following some cagey opening exchanges, both teams eventually found sound rhythm but, while Tokyo were slightly wasteful with their chances, the hosts – aided by some good fortune – did not need a second invitation to make the most of theirs in the 26th minute.

A patiently-worked move saw Erik and Takuya Wada link up to set up Theerathon Bunmathan on the edge of the area, and the Thailand international’s speculative effort took a wicked deflection off Keigo Higashi to loop over a hapless Akihiro Hayashi.

A minute before halftime, Marinos struck again when Marcos Junior embarked on an enterprising run through the middle before feeding a pass to Erik.

The ball initially would not sit but the Brazilian kept his composure to hold off a challenge, before clinically stroking a left-footed effort into the bottom corner.

By now, Ange Postecoglou’s charges were firmly headed for the title by their fine afternoon was slightly soured five minutes after the hour mark when goalkeeper Park Iru-gyu was shown a straight red card for a last-man foul on Kensuke Nagai outside the area.

But despite the numerical deficit, Marinos always looked in control of proceedings and added the icing on the cake with 13 minutes remaining courtesy of a brilliant individual effort by Keita Endo.

Receiving possession inside his own half, Endo skipped past a challenge and rampaged down the left and all the way into the opposition box and then beat the same opponent again for good measure, before squeezing his shot past Hayashi to seal Marinos’ first J1 League title since 2004.

YOKOHAMA F. MARINOS: Park Iru-gyu, Ken Matsubara, Thiago Martins, Shinnosuke Hatanaka, Theerathon Bunmathan, Takuya Kida, Takuya Wada (Kota Watanabe 90+1’), Marcos Junior (Hirotsugu Nakabayashi 67’), Teruhito Nakagawa, Matheus (Keita Endo 61’), Erik.

FC TOKYO: Akihiro Hayashi, Oh Jae-suk, Tsuyoshi Watanabe, Masato Morishige, Ryoya Ogawa, Arthur Silva (Hirotaka Mita 59’), Kento Hashimoto, Keigo Higashi (Kyosuke Tagawa 46’), Yojiro Takahagi, Na Sang-ho (Yu In-soo 46’), Kensuke Nagai.

Photo credit: Yokohama F. Marinos