OSAKA – Yokohama F. Marinos maintained their challenge for first-stage honors with an emphatic 4-1 win away at Cerezo Osaka in the J. League first division Saturday.
Nine-man Kashima Antlers, however, had their title hopes dented after a 3-3 draw at home to Vissel Kobe while Nagoya Grampus Eight, who had goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki sent off, was held 1-1 at home to Gamba Osaka.
With two matches of the first stage remaining, Yokohama has 26 and trail surprise leaders JEF United Ichihara, which travels to Jubilo Iwata on Sunday, only on goal difference.
Iwata is third on 24 points with Nagoya and Kashima a further point back.
At Nagai Stadium, Japan midfielder Daisuke Oku set the tone with a stunning 25-meter free kick in the 16th minute and Yuji Nakazawa exploited Cerezo’s inability to defend set pieces as he rose unmarked to head home Yokohama’s second 10 minutes before the break.
More Keystone Cops defending allowed Akihiro Endo to stab home a third from close range on 56 minutes before South Korean star Yoo Sang Chul met Yukihiko Sato’s corner with a firm header to kill the game off on the hour mark.
Japan striker Yoshito Okubo pulled one back for the home side with a clever lob in the 71st minute but it proved too little, too late for Akihiro Nishimura’s men.
In Ibaraki Prefecture, Kashima looked to be on course for all three points after midfielder Claudecir had put them 3-1 up on 54 minutes.
But fellow Brazilian Oseas scored twice in six minutes to earn Kobe a share of the spoils before veteran Kashima defenders Naoki Soma Yutaka Akita were both sent off.
Nagoya managed to maintain its unbeaten record despite having Japan ‘keeper Narazaki red-carded for a professional foul on Gamba striker Masashi Oguro.
Nagoya took the lead through striker Ueslei but Narazaki brought down Oguro inside the box and Yasuhito Endo converted the resulting penalty.
Elsewhere, former Kashima man Fabiano grabbed a last-minute equalizer to earn Vegalta Sendai a 3-3 draw at home to Tokyo Verdy while FC Tokyo was held 0-0 at home by Shimizu S-Pulse.
At the foot of the table, Oita Trinita won 2-0 in a basement battle at Kyoto Purple Sanga to record its first victory in eight games.
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