YOKOHAMA – The J. League first-stage title race took another twist on Saturday as in-form Japan striker Tatsuhiko Kubo scored one and set up another to put 10-man Yokohama F. Marinos on the road to a 3-2 home win over FC Tokyo.
The win moved Yokohama top of the table after leader JEF United Ichihara was sunk by a late goal from substitute Ryuta Hara in a 2-1 defeat to Nagoya Grampus Eight in Nagano Prefecture and Kashima Antlers were held 1-1 at Oita Trinita.
Yokohama has 17 points from eight games, one clear of Ichihara and Kashima, who missed out on a chance to regain top spot in the 16-team standings.
Veteran Japan defender Yutaka Akita inexplicably fluffed a routine back pass to goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata in the 37th minute and Brazilian striker Rodrigo pounced to lash the ball into the top corner to give the home side the lead.
Oita goalkeeper Hayato Okanaka kept his side in the game with a series of outstanding saves before Koji Nakata salvaged a deserved point for the visitors with a late header.
At International Stadium Yokohama, Kubo needed only six minutes to grab his fourth goal in two games, stabbing home a first-time effort from former Tokyo midfielder Yukihiko Sato’s pinpoint cross.
Fumitake Miura headed Tokyo level on 40 minutes but the away fans had barely finished celebrating when Sotaro Yasunaga bundled home Kubo’s cross and Akihiro Endo made it three with a fine solo effort on the stroke of halftime.
Yokohama had former Japan defender Yasuhiro Hato sent off midway through the second half and although Jo Kanazawa grabbed a late goal for the visitors, F. Marinos held firm to take all three points.
In Matsumoto, Ichihara midfielder Yuki Abe canceled out Naoshi Nakamura’s opener for Nagoya on 34 minutes but came off the bench and scored with his first touch 11 minutes from time to end Ichihara’s four-match unbeaten run.
Elsewhere, Brazilian midfielder Ricardinho netted a second half double as Kashiwa Reysol came from behind to win 3-2 away at Gamba Osaka.
Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma scored his third of the season but Tokyo Verdy was handed its sixth straight defeat after going down 2-1 at home to Shimizu S-Pulse while Cerezo Osaka won by the same scoreline at Vegalta Sendai.
In Sunday’s matches, defending champion Jubilo Iwata welcomes Kyoto Purple Sanga and Vissel Kobe hosts Urawa Reds.
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