YOKOHAMA – Yokohama F. Marinos’ hopes of defending their J. League title suffered another setback on Wednesday after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.
In the day’s other early afternoon kickoff, goals from Ryoichi Maeda and Bobby Cullen gave Jubilo Iwata its second win in a row after edging visiting Gamba Osaka 2-1.
South Korea striker Ahn Jung Hwan’s brilliant first-half strike against his former employer looked to have put Yokohama on the way to its first win in five matches.
But Shimizu battled back and deservedly grabbed a share of the spoils when Ahn’s national teammate Cho Jae Jin rose to head home the equalizer following a free-kick 12 minutes from time.
Yokohama had the best chance to open the scoring at a sun-drenched Nissan Stadium when Brazilian defender Dutra saw a long-range effort rattle the crossbar before Ahn put the home side in front.
The in-form Ahn turned Takahiro Yamanishi inside out before smashing the ball into the roof of the net from an acute angle for his fourth league goal of the season.
Yokohama began to stamp its authority on the game and Hayuma Tanaka was also left cursing his luck when he saw his shot also come back off the woodwork.
But it was the visitors that were the more threatening after the interval and Cho was denied by the post and Keisuke Iwashita forced a smart save from Tetsuya Enomoto in the 56th minute.
Kenta Hasegawa’s men finally made the breakthrough when a free-kick from the right was headed back across the face of goal by Ryuzo Morioka for Cho to head past the helpless Enomoto.
“The nice thing about today’s game was that both goals came from South Korea players but obviously it’s also great to come to a place like Yokohama and take a point off them,” said Cho, who scored twice in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Omiya Ardija.
At Ajinomoto Stadium, Masashi Motoyama helped himself to a first-half double as leaders Kashima Antlers got back on the winning track with a routine 2-0 victory over troubled FC Tokyo to move seven points clear at the top of the table.
Kashima, which suffered a shock first defeat of the season at home to Cerezo Osaka on Sunday, lead the standings with 25 points from 10 games, ahead of Nagoya Grampus Eight, which was held to a goalless draw at home to Oita Trinita.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima is another point off the pace after a 1-1 draw away to JEF United Chiba.
Omiya Ardija moved into fourth with a 1-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol.
At the other end of the table Urawa Reds piled more misery on rock bottom Vissel Kobe, Tatsuya Tanaka’s goal giving the visitors a 1-0 win while Albirex Niigata beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-1.
Cerezo Osaka and Tokyo Verdy played to a scoreless draw.
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