SENDAI – North Korean international Ryang Yong Gi scored twice as Vegalta Sendai collected three crucial points to climb out of the drop zone with a 2-0 home victory over Montedio Yamagata on Sunday.
Ryang struck on either side of halftime — a 28th-minute free kick followed by his second in open play on 76 minutes — as Vegalta moved up the J. League first division table to 13th, steering clear of the relegation berth by three points with their third win in four games.
Coach Makoto Teguramori described the Tohoku derby victory as “near perfect.”
The 28-year-old Ryang has nine goals this season, only two behind the league lead.
“This is a huge win for us, but we can’t celebrate yet,” said Ryang, whose side travels to Yokohama to face F. Marinos on Saturday. “We’re still not completely in the clear. Everyone on this team needs to give it his best for the 11 games we have left.”
Yamagata, which had beaten Vegalta in their last three meetings, fell back to 12th, staying on 28 points.
In the day’s other J1 game, Albirex drew 1-1 with next to last Kyoto Sanga, who collected a point for the second straight week following their home win over Vissel Kobe.
Eighth-place Albirex, looking poised for yet another year of midtable anonymity, went down in the 37th minute at the Big Swan as defender Kwak Tae Hwi scored his second goal of the season from a corner for the Kansai visitors.
Brazilian striker Michael managed to equalize for the hosts in the 68th minute with a penalty — given away by Kwak, who was shown a straight red card for the offense — to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat.