Leader Jubilo Iwata brushed aside 10-man Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 in Kashiwa on Wednesday to make it five wins out of five and maintain pole position in the standings in the J. League first division.
The visitors took a 2-0 lead inside the first 15 minutes thanks to headers from veteran striker Masashi Nakayama and Japan midfielder Takashi Fukunishi.
Brazilian midfielder Dudu pulled a goal back to halve the deficit for the home side in the 26th minute but went from hero to villain when he was sent off for his second bookable offense just before the hour mark.
Compatriot Rodrigo Gral drove home a Fukunishi cross with 17 minutes remaining to seal the win and condemn Kashiwa to its third straight defeat after taking six points from its first two games.
Unbeaten in all competitions, 2002 champion Iwata moved on to 15 points, five clear of JEF United Ichihara, which drew 2-2 away to Gamba Osaka. Gamba, which earned a share of the spoils thanks to a late equalizer from Magrao, is third on nine points.
Elsewhere, defending champion Yokohama F. Marinos’ erratic early form continued as Takeshi Okada’s men were held 1-1 away to unfashionable Oita Trinita, Japan Under-23 striker Daisuke Sakata grabbing an 83rd-minute equalizer to cancel out Takayuki Yoshida’s superb free-kick.
Yokohama is seven points adrift of Iwata with a third of the stage gone, while Kashima Antlers squandered a two goal lead at home to draw 2-2 with Albirex Niigata and have also yielded just eight points so far in their 2004 campaign.
At the other end of the table, Yoshikiyo Kuboyama scored twice as Shimizu S-Pulse came from two goals down to beat 10-man Urawa Reds 4-3 for its first win of the season, while Cerezo Osaka bagged its first point after a 1-1 draw away to FC Tokyo.
The games between Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Nagoya Grampus Eight, and Tokyo Verdy against Vissel Kobe both ended in 1-1 draws.
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