YOKOHAMA – Kenta Kano struck the winner as Yokohama F. Marinos stunned high-flying Oita Trinita 1-0 in the J. League first division on Saturday.
Kano’s superb free kick on the hour mark sentenced Oita to its first league defeat in 14 matches and in the process provided Yokohama with a major boost in its bid to avoid relegation.
The result pulled Yokohama seven points clear of the drop zone while Oita slipped into second in the table on goal difference behind Nagoya Grampus, who play Asian club champions Urawa Reds in a top-of-the table clash at Mizuho Stadium on Sunday.
A dull first half at Nissan Stadium produced few clear-cut chances, although Daisuke Takahashi went close to breaking the deadlock for Oita in the 30th minute when he headed Shingo Suzuki’s cross against the outside of the post.
Hideo Oshima allowed a decent opportunity to go begging when he headed over for Yokohama and Mu Kanazaki fired just wide early in the second period before the home side drew first blood with what proved to be the decider.
Taikai Uemoto floored Oshima with a clumsy foul from about 25 meters out and Kano stepped up to send a superb shot beyond the despairing dive of Seigo Shimokawa.
Oita, which had frustrated manager Pericles Chamusca banished to the stands for remonstrating with officials, never looked like recovering from that blow and substitute Kota Mizunuma and Daisuke Sakata both went close to extending Yokohama’s lead in the late stages.
“We didn’t think our unbeaten record would go right until the end (of the season), said Oita assistant coach Marcelo.
“We knew it would have to get broken some day and that day just happened to be today.”
“I won’t say that it won’t affect us at all but it is not a big problem.”
In other action, North Korean striker Chong Tese scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season as Kawasaki Frontale stayed in the title picture with a 5-2 win over Kashiwa Reysol.
Vissel Kobe eased their relegation fears as goals from Botti and Takayuki Yoshida secured a 2-0 win at Omiya Ardija.
Resurgent JEF United Chiba moved within a point of safety after beating Kyoto Sanga 1-0 away for their fourth victory in a row, Kohei Kudo winning it for the visitors with a sharp finish midway through the second half.