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Gamba, Marinos draw to keep title race simmering

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Yokohama F. Marinos held leaders Gamba Osaka to a 1-1 draw to keep the J. League title race finely balanced as champions Nagoya Grampus also shared the spoils with Kashima Antlers on Sunday night.

Shingo Hyodo broke the deadlock with a blistering strike midway through the first half but Rafinha continued his rich vein of form with the equalizer to keep Gamba top of the table with eight games of the season remaining.

“Yokohama kept their defense compact and we weren’t able to find a second goal, but you can’t complain too much about coming away from here with a point,” said Gamba coach Akira Nishino.

Gamba (54) are one point clear of Kashiwa Reysol, who hammered Vissel Kobe 4-0 away on Saturday, while Yokohama is another two points back.

Nagoya (50) had fallen behind to Chikashi Masuda’s 77th-minute strike but Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s header salvaged a point to keep Dragan Stojkovic’s men firmly in contention for the silverware.

At Nissan Stadium, Hyodo, deputizing with the armband for injured captain Shunsuke Nakamura, put Yokohama in front, smashing in from just outside the area after Ariajasuru Hasegawa had knocked back Hiroyuki Taniguchi’s ball into the box.

Yokohama had kept Rafinha tightly under wraps for nearly an hour, but the Brazilian chalked up his ninth goal in 10 games with a well-taken header.

“We were second best in the first half but didn’t panic and were able to play our style of soccer,” said Rafinha. “It’s a shame we couldn’t win but we got a point, which was what we wanted at the very least.”

In the day’s other game, Cerezo Osaka drew 0-0 at Omiya Ardija.