SENDAI – There was no change at the top of the J. League Saturday as Vegalta Sendai were held 1-1 at home by Sagan Tosu, while leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima twice let their advantage slip in a 2-2 draw at Kashima.
In a scrappy game at Yurtec Stadium, both Sendai and Tosu saw chances go begging before Yohei Toyoda broke the deadlock in the 14th minute to put the visitors ahead, stealing in unmarked to nod home Kota Mizunuma’s curling cross from the right.
Tosu briefly laid siege to the Sendai goal but lacked the finesse to capitalize on half chances, Ryuhei Niwa blasting over from close range and Kim Min Woo lobbing over the bar. They paid the price in the 29th minute, when Yoshiaki Ota cut back down left and crossed for striker Shingo Akamine to meet with a towering header that gave keeper Taku Akahoshi no hope.
Ten minutes into the second half, Ryang Yong Gi curled inches past the post from outside the box and Yoshiaki Ota followed suit a moment later as Sendai struggled to find a way through a stubborn Tosu defense.
Vegalta keeper Takuto Hayashi had to save smartly from a powerful header from Kim Kun Hwan in the 72nd minute, and Akahoshi then pushed aside a shot at the other end from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi. Substitute Yuki Muto could have won it for Sendai in the dying minutes when he fired in a cracker that beat Akahoshi only to rebound off the post.
At Kashima, league leaders Sanfrecce went ahead in the 39th minute through striker Hisato Sato, but the hosts pulled level on the stroke of halftime through Yuya Osako. Three minutes after the restart, defender Ryota Moriwaki put Hiroshima back in front, but Osako again was the hero for the Antlers with the equalizer in the 74th.
A goal in each half at Urawa secured a 2-0 win for the Reds in their top-table clash with Jubilo Iwata, midfielders Yosuke Kashiwagi and Yuki Abe providing the respective strikes.
At the bottom of the table, Consadole Sapporo grabbed three valuable points with practically the last kick of the match as striker Shinya Uehara scored two minutes into injury time to give the struggling Sapporo outfit a 2-1 win over Nagoya Grampus. Masaki Yamamoto put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after the break but Marcus Tulio Tanaka had pulled the visitors level three minutes later.
But the rare win was not enough to ease Sapporo’s relegation fears as they remain seven points adrift of Gamba Osaka, who picked up a point in a 1-1 draw at Vissel Kobe. Cross-town rivals Cerezo Osaka remain mired in trouble, meanwhile, after a 4-1 loss at Kashiwa Reysol, who moved into fourth place on the back of a hat-trick by Masato Kudo.
But Albirex Niigata inched further away from the danger zone with a 2-0 with at FC Tokyo, courtesy of goals from Yuta Mikado and Brazilian midfielder Alan Mineiro.
At Todoroki Stadium, Omiya Ardija took an early lead but Kawasaki Frontale leveled on the stroke of halftime and then turned the screws to run out 4-1 winners. In a mid-table clash at Yokohama, a slew of second-half strikes saw hosts Marinos prevail 3-0 over Shimizu S-Pulse.