OSAKA – The high-flying Urawa Reds moved within touching distance of their first ever J. League title with a 2-0 win over relegation-haunted Cerezo Osaka in the first division on Saturday.
Tatsuya Tanaka drove home to put Urawa in front after 14 minutes and league-leading scorer Emerson bagged his 23rd goal of the season midway through the second half to extend the Reds’ lead at the top, for 24 hours at least, to eight points.
With four games of the second stage remaining, Urawa, which defends its Nabisco Cup title in next week’s final, leads Gamba Osaka and JEF United Ichihara, who meet in Chiba Prefecture on Sunday in a match both sides need to win to stay in the title race.
Defeat left Cerezo rooted to the foot of the table and its misery was compounded after star striker Yoshito Okubo was sent off 13 minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers, whose loss to Urawa last Saturday was marred by violent scenes involving Kashima players and fans, beat defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos 3-1 in an ill-tempered affair that produced 10 yellow cards and a red for Masashi Motoyama.
Japan international Mitsuo Ogasawara scored one and created two more, Daiki Iwamasa heading home the pint-sized midfielder’s free kick to open the scoring in the 11th minute.
Takayuki Suzuki flicked in the second from another Ogasawara set piece on the stroke of halftime before Daisuke Sakata gave Yokohama hope in the 49th minute.
At Nihondaira Stadium, a double from Brazilian striker Marques gave visiting Nagoya Grampus Eight a 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse while Oita Trinita’s relegation worries were eased after a 2-0 win over 10-man Vissel Kobe.
The match between Albirex Niigata and Kashiwa Reysol was postponed after a series of deadly earthquakes hit Niigata Prefecture’s Chuetsu region last weekend.
In Saturday’s evening game, Jubilo Iwata won 2-1 away to Tokyo Verdy.
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