KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. – Defending J. League champions Yokohama F. Marinos zeroed in on the first-stage title with a 2-1 win over 10-man Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday after Jubilo Iwata was stunned 1-0 away to archrivals Kashima Antlers.
decisive goal in the 89th minute against Jubilo Iwata at Kashima Stadium. Antlers won 1-0.
Iwata’s hopes of claiming their first title since winning both stages in 2002 were dealt a hammer blow after Daiki Iwamasa settled an uneventful affair by heading home a Mitsuo Ogasawara corner in the closing stages to ensure that the chase for first-stage honors will go down to the wire.
Yokohama took full advantage of Iwata’s slip-up in the evening to move two points clear at the top of the table with one game remaining thanks to goals from Hayuma Tanaka and South Korean star striker Ahn Jung Hwan.
Yokohama, which beat Iwata with a stoppage-time winner to complete a two-stage double in its final league game of last year, has 33 points from 14 games and can capture the title with a win when it visits Kashima next Saturday. Iwata travels to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Tanaka put Yokohama in front in the 18th minute when he swept home a first-time effort from a left-wing cross from South Korean Yoo Sang Chul, who came close to getting his name on the scoresheet early in the second period.
Kashiwa was reduced to 10 men when Takeshi Watanabe bundled over Ahn, and Yoo almost doubled the visitors lead from the resulting free kick that was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Yuta Minami.
Ahn headed against the post from the corner but was not to be denied a second time and doubled the lead when he poked home after Minami could only parry a shot from Daisuke Sakata.
Kashiwa restored parity late on when Brazilian defender Dudu powered home a corner but Yokohama stood firm to pick up three priceless points.
In other matches, Ivan Radeljic scored a last-minute equalizer to give struggling Cerezo Osaka a 2-2 draw at home to Vissel Kobe, while Shimizu S-Pulse beat Tokyo Verdy 3-1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima against Albirex Niigata finished 1-1, and FC Tokyo beat Nagoya Grampus Eight 3-2.
Suzuki to Antlers
Japan striker Takayuki Suzuki, who plays for Belgian second-division side Heusden-Zolder, will return to the J. League with Kashima Antlers in the coming days, soccer sources said Saturday.
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