IWATA, Shizuoka Pref. – Japan international striker Yoshito Okubo scored a second-half double as Cerezo Osaka came from behind to hold defending champion Jubilo Iwata 2-2 away in the J. League on Saturday.
Iwata had twice taken the lead through Takahiro Kawamura and Brazilian Rodrigo Gral but Okubo’s superb brace dealt another blow to the home side’s hopes of retaining the second-stage title.
After four matches, Masaaki Yanagishita’s men have managed just one win with four points, five adrift of leader JEF United Ichihara, which hosts Kashima Antlers on Sunday.
With Ichihara idle, Urawa Reds and Kashiwa Reysol both missed their chance to go top of the table for the evening after both teams suffered losses to Gamba Osaka and Yokohama F. Marinos.
At Yamaha Stadium, Iwata went in front on 16 minutes when Kawamura stole in unmarked to head home Hiroshi Nanami’s corner for his first league goal of the season, the only highlight of a dull first 45 minutes.
Shortly after the interval, the game exploded into life as Okubo equalized with a sublime finish on 50 minutes before Iwata took the lead for a second time four minutes later.
Substitute Takeshi Hamada fed Okubo with a diagonal pass from the right and the jet-heeled striker outpaced Iwata’s defense before dancing around Arno Van Zwam to slot home from an acute angle.
The visitors’ joy was short-lived, however, as an attempted clearance from Nobuki Hara came back off the shin of league-leading scorer Gral and rolled into the net.
But Okubo gave Cerezo a deserved share of the spoils just before the hour mark with a second goal that will give Iwata goalkeeper Van Zwam a few sleepless nights.
Hara sent in a deep pass that Van Zwam spilled when it looked as though he had a firm grip on the ball and the incoming Okubo robbed the Dutchman to slide the ball into the empty net.
Urawa lost for the first time in the second stage after going down 2-1 to Gamba while Kashiwa’s unbeaten record also ended as South Korean veteran Yoo Sang Chul scored the only goal of the game in the 48th minute at International Stadium Yokohama.
Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse ran out 2-1 winner at Vissel Kobe, Nagoya Grampus Eight defeated host Vegalta Sendai 3-0, and Tokyo Verdy thumped Kyoto Purple Sanga 4-1.
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