IWATA, Shizuoka Pref. – Kashima Antlers preserved their one-point lead at the top of the J. League second-stage standings after a 1-1 draw away at defending champion Jubilo Iwata on Saturday.
Japan midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara fired Kashima in front after 17 minutes before league-leading scorer Rodrigo Gral leveled when he grabbed his 16th goal from a penalty shortly before halftime in a scrappy game at a rain-soaked Yamaha Stadium.
Kashima held onto top spot with 12 points from six games ahead of JEF United Ichihara, Tokyo Verdy and first-stage winners Yokohama F. Marinos.
Iwata should have taken the lead after 13 minutes only for Aleksander Zivkovic to screw his shot horribly wide after being put clean through with a clever pass from Gral.
Zivkovic’s miss was punished four minutes later when Ogasawara sent in a curling shot from the right that bounced beyond the reach of Iwata goalkeeper Hiromasa Yamamoto and into the far corner of the net.
But Gral earned Iwata a share of the spoils on 43 minutes he converted from the spot after being dragged down in the box by Tatsuya Ishikawa.
Ichihara missed out on its chance to go top as Naotake Hanyu’s 20th-minute opener was canceled out by a last-minute goal from Keiji Tamada in a 1-1 draw in the Chiba Prefecture derby at home to Kashiwa Reysol.
Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma grabbed his ninth goal of the season from the penalty spot as Tokyo Verdy ran out 4-2 winners at home to struggling Cerezo Osaka to move into second spot on goal difference.
Daisuke Sakata grabbed his second brace in as many games as Yokohama demolished Shimizu S-Pulse 5-1 at home while Brazilian striker Ueslei also scored twice as Nagoya Grampus Eight won 2-1 over Kyoto Purple Sanga.
Elsewhere, Urawa Reds won 3-1 away against Oita Trinita, Vegalta Sendai drew 2-2 at home to FC Tokyo, while Gamba Osaka was held 2-2 at home to Vissel Kobe.
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