The 2018 J.League season kicked off with a bang on 23 February, as Sagan Tosu hosted Vissel Kobe for the first ever Friday Night J.League match at Best Amenity Stadium.
It only took three minutes for the first drama of the season, as Kyosuke Tagawa won and then converted a penalty for the hosts, but Mike Havenaar leveled for Kobe in the 87th minute to ensure things finished 1-1.
The prime time match was enjoyed by fans all over Japan and further afield too, as supporters in Thailand were able to cheer on Theerathon Bunmathan on his Vissel debut.
A public viewing event took place the following day in Bangkok, when two other Thai stars came head to head in Hiroshima, as Sanfrecce Hiroshima and their new signing Teerasil Dangda clashed with Chanathip Songkrasin’s Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.
The almost 300 gathered fans at the public viewing event were treated to a strike from one of their heroes too, with Teerasil scoring the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win for Sanfrecce. Supporters in the stadium waved some 15,000 Thailand flags to celebrate his header, further demonstrating the growing bonds between Japanese and Thai football.
There was plenty of excitement elsewhere on the opening weekend as well, with reigning champions Kawasaki Frontale winning 3-0 away to Jubilo Iwata, 2017 Meiji Yasuda J2 champions Shonan Bellmare beating fellow promoted side V-Varen Nagasaki 2-1, and last year’s J1 Promotion Play-Off winners Nagoya Grampus edging Gamba Osaka 3-2.
Elsewhere, Vegalta Sendai beat Kashiwa Reysol 1-0, while FC Tokyo and Urawa Reds (1-1), Shimizu S-Pulse and Kashima Antlers (0-0), and Cerezo Osaka and Yokohama F.Marinos (1-1) all drew their matches.