Playmaker Mitsuo Ogasawara inspired Kashima Antlers to a 4-2 victory over 10-man JEF United Chiba on Saturday to take the four-time J. League champion five points clear at the top of the first division.
The Japan international struck once in each half and set up another as Kashima ended JEF’s unbeaten start to the season and moved on to 16 points at the top of the table, five clear of Yokohama F. Marinos, who were held 2-2 at home to Gamba Osaka.
FC Tokyo dropped another point back after Urawa took its first three points of the campaign with a 2-0 win at Ajinomoto Stadium.
At National Stadium, Kashima had slightly the better of a scrappy first half and JEF’s Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov twice had to clear off the line before Ogasawara fired the visitors in front in the 40th minute in front of watching national team coach Zico.
The pint-sized midfielder took a pass from Fernando on his chest before uncorking a superb volley beyond the outstretched arms of Ryo Kushino.
But the visitors’ joy was short-lived as JEF drew level with an equally impressive strike from Yuto Sato, who picked up Mario Haas’ pass and turned to rifle home a minute before the interval.
Toru Kamikawa then controversially handed Kashima a numerical advantage and sparked furious protests from the Chiba players when he gave a straight red card to Stoyanov after a seemingly innocuous challenge on Toru Araiba in the 53rd minute.
And Toninho Cerezo’s men took full advantage as Daiki Iwamasa beat Kushino to Ogasawara’s cross from the left to restore their advantage in the 59th minute.
Ogasawara then grabbed his second of the game, poking home a cross from Brazilian forward Alex Mineiro in the 67th minute.
Haas’ superb first-time finish just 60 seconds later gave Chiba hope but Mineiro wrapped up the win with his fourth goal of the season 12 minutes from time.
Chiba manager Ivica Osim was understandably disappointed with the result and slammed referee Kamikawa for the sending off of Stoyanov.
“The referee ruined the game. He needs to learn how to deal with crafty players. We were OK with 11 men and playing quite well but after we went down to 10 it was all over.”
At Nissan Stadium, South Korea striker Ahn Jung Hwan’s rich vein of form continued with his fifth goal in four matches but Yokohama needed a late goal from Hideo Oshima to salvage a point after Araujo had given Gamba the lead for the second time in the 74th minute.
Urawa inflicted a second straight defeat on FC Tokyo thanks to second-half goals from last year’s J. League top scorer Emerson and Satoshi Horinouchi.
Elsewhere, Sanfrecce Hiroshima picked up its second win in four days by beating Vissel Kobe 2-0, while Oita Trinita won 1-0 at Shimizu S-Pulse courtesy of a second-half goal from Magno Alves. Ten-man Kashiwa Reysol held on for a 1-1 draw at Cerezo Osaka.
In Saturday’s evening fixture, Sho Naruoka’s 28th-minute goal relieved the pressure on manager Masakuni Yamamoto as Jubilo Iwata won 1-0 away to Albirex Niigata.
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