• Kyodo


Takuya Nozawa struck twice as leaders Kashima Antlers returned to winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Omiya Ardija in the J. League first division Saturday.

News photoKashima Antlers Midfielder Takuya Nozawa (right) beats Omiya Ardija defender Takuro Nishimura to score the first of his two goals in the 26th minute Saturday at Saitama Stadium 2002. Antlers won 2-0.

Two clinical finishes from Nozawa, with Masashi Motoyama the provider on both occasions, saw Kashima collect its first win in three matches and maintain a four-point lead over Gamba Osaka, which came from behind to thrash local rival Cerezo Osaka 4-1.

At a sparsely populated Saitama Stadium 2002, neither team was able to get a grip on a drab first half but Nozawa opened the scoring with a well-taken finish in the 27th minute.

Motoyama, sporting a shocking new crop, picked out Nozawa on the left and the 23-year-old gave Hiroki Aratani no chance with a powerful drive low into the right-hand corner.

Omiya improved after the break and came close to equalizing in the 58th minute when Satoshi Yokoyama’s lob was acrobatically clawed away by Hitoshi Sogahata.

But Kashima doubled its lead moments later.

Nozawa played a clever one-two with Motoyama, collecting a cheeky flick before rifling the ball past Aratani in 69th minute to wrap up the points.

“If (the league) was still a two-stage system we’d be first stage champions now,” Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo said. “It’s not, but it’s nice to start the second half of the season on a winning note.

In the Osaka derby, Tomoyoshi Tsurumi headed visiting Cerezo into the lead after 10 minutes but Araujo scored twice and Hideo Hashimoto added a third before Yasuhito Endo completed the rout with a 40-meter free-kick six minutes from time.

Urawa Reds climbed into third after Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s 56th-minute header gave them a 1-0 win at Shimizu S-Pulse. Yokohama F. Marinos were held to a goalless draw at home to Kashiwa Reysol.

Elsewhere, Sanfrecce Hiroshima piled more misery on lowly Tokyo Verdy, an own goal and a double from Hisato Sato giving the home side a 3-0 win. Verdy sacked Osvaldo Ardiles on Tuesday after a series of poor results left it second from bottom in the table.

Bottom club Vissel Kobe earned a 1-1 draw away to FC Tokyo.

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