Asashoryu almost fluffed his lines before scraping victory over Yoshikaze to retain his share of the lead Saturday heading into the second week of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Unbeaten Asashoryu’s seventh win kept the pressure on odds-on favorite Hakuho, who also won to stay tied at the top at 7-0 with his fellow Mongolian yokozuna and rank-and-filer Tochiozan at the 15-day basho in Tokyo.
But Asashoryu almost paid the price for a lapse in concentration as he let Yoshikaze (2-5) slip from his grasp after taking control at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The 22-time Emperor’s Cup winner suddenly found himself on the back foot but held his nerve to run the No. 2 maegashira out before making sure he got one of his spiteful late shoves in after his opponent was already over the straw ridge.
Hakuho was never in danger of blotting his scorecard in the day’s finale and charged sekiwake Aminishiki (3-4) out in a matter of seconds.
Twelfth-ranked Tochiozan continued his excellent start with a routine win over Koryu (3-4) in the lower echelons of sumo’s elite makuuchi division.
In other bouts, sekiwake Baruto fell out of a tie for the lead after Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu claimed European bragging rights with a hand pull-down win over the Estonian tower block.
Both men sit one win off the pace on 6-1 along with ozeki Chiyotaikai, who used a flurry of trademark slaps and thrusts to take apart third-ranked Takekaze (2-5), and third-ranked Goeido, who beat maegashira Takamisakari (3-4).
Kotomitsuki was saddled with his sixth defeat after being given the run around by former ozeki Miyabiyama, who improved to 2-5, but Harumafuji avoided another embarrassing reverse on his ozeki debut by putting Kyokutenho down on one hand for a second win.