Urawa Reds scraped a 1-0 win over visiting Albirex Niigata as top-flight action in the J. League resumed in full on Saturday after a two-month break for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Topping the table heading into the summer recess, Reds were the benefactors of a 16th-minute own goal from Ken Matsubara at a rain-lashed Saitama Stadium, and that was all that was needed for the former Asian club champions to stay one point clear nearing the halfway point of the season. Reds equaled a league record by holding their opponent scoreless for their sixth straight game.
Sagan Tosu stayed second, Kim Min-woo striking the only goal of the game after goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi had pulled off a series of excellent saves in a 1-0 win at Vissel Kobe.
Third-place Kawasaki Frontale also picked up a win, Yu Kobayashi opening the scoring before World Cup striker Yoshito Okubo wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Shimizu S-Pulse at Nihondaira.
At NACK5 Stadium, Serbian striker Dragan Mrdja made a memorable J. League debut, scoring twice after coming off the bench as Omiya Ardija earned a 3-3 draw at home to champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
At Ajinomoto Stadium, a late goal from Yuta Toyokawa gave Kashima Antlers a 1-1 draw at FC Tokyo, and an injury-time goal from Kenyu Sugimoto saw Cerezo Osaka earn a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw at home to Yokohama F. Marinos.
Shu Kurata helped ease Cerezo’s local rivals Gamba Osaka’s struggles, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Ventforet Kofu. Marcus Tulio Tanaka was on target in Nagoya Grampus 1-1 draw with whipping boys Tokushima Vortis, who managed just their fourth goal of the season. Kashiwa Reysol were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Vegalta Sendai in a game that started an hour late due to lightning.