SHIZUOKA – Former Japan international Daisuke Ichikawa hit a late winner as Shimizu S-Pulse beat 10-man Vissel Kobe 1-0 on Sunday to reduce fading Kashima Antlers’ lead at the top of the J. League to a single point.
Kobe had South Korean midfielder Kim Nam Il sent off 11 minutes into the second half for a second bookable offense but the visitors looked to be on their way to a hard-earned point at Outsourcing Stadium.
But Ichikawa boosted S-Pulse’s title hopes and extended his side’s unbeaten streak to 12 games when he drove home a loose ball following a corner from substitute Jungo Fujimoto seven minutes from time.
S-Pulse improved to 49 points with seven matches left although they have played one more game than Antlers, who suffered their third defeat in a row after going down 4-1 at home to Nagoya Grampus on Saturday.
Kashima only has 15 minutes of its game in hand against Kawasaki Frontale to overturn a two-goal deficit.
Antlers and Frontale have been ordered by the J. League to play on Oct. 7 the remaining quarter of an hour of their game abandoned earlier this month because of a waterlogged pitch, with Frontale leading 3-1.
Gamba Osaka are three points back, having beaten Kawasaki 2-1 at home on Saturday.
In Sunday’s other game, Kazuma Watanabe scored his 11th goal of the season on the stroke of halftime to give Yokohama F. Marinos a 2-1 win at Urawa Reds.