07.03.2015 11:59 h

Champions Osaka frustrated in J-League opener

Japanese champions Gamba Osaka blew a two-goal lead Saturday as they began the defence of their J-League title with a 2-2 home draw with FC Tokyo.

Marksman Takashi Usami picked up where he left off after helping Gamba win last week's curtain-raising Super Cup but a double from Japan striker Yoshinori Muto gave the visitors a share of the points at Expo stadium.

Gamba won the domestic treble last season after bouncing back from a year in Japan's second flight, and they looked comfortable until Muto caught fire in the last 15 minutes, smashing home a long-range equaliser in stoppage time.

The game was billed as a showdown between Muto, part of Japan's squad under former coach Javier Aguirre, and Usami, who was bizarrely overlooked by the Mexican for January's Asian Cup.

Both men delivered, although Muto had more reason to be cheerful after cancelling out goals from Brazilian Patric and Usami, sending a message to incoming Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

"Hopefully I can keep my place for the national team," Muto told reporters. "I know I have to fight for my place so there's always going to be pressure."

First division new boys Matsumoto Yamaga came close to stunning Nagoya Grampus away but settled for a creditable 3-3 draw, Slovenian Milivoje Novakovic sparing the home side's blushes with a late goal.

Brazilian forward Wilson scored twice as Vegalta Sendai beat promoted Montedio Yamagata 2-0 while Sanfrecce Hiroshima, champions in 2013, beat visiting Ventforet Kofu by the same score.

Kawasaki Frontale and Kashiwa Reysol kicked off with away victories in the 2015 campaign, which reverts to a two-stage format for the first time since 2004.