• Kyodo


Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte capped a sparkling league debut by striking the winner to give Urawa Reds a 2-1 win over FC Tokyo on Saturday as J. League first-division action resumed after a four-week break.

Visiting Tokyo went in front early on but Ponte set up Yuichiro Nagai for the equalizer and curled home the winner in the 55th minute as Urawa made ground on leaders Kashima Antlers, who were stunned 2-1 at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Gamba Osaka could have reduced Kashima’s lead at the top of the table to one point but was handed a comprehensive 4-2 defeat away by Albirex Niigata.

Kashima leads the table with 39 points from 19 games with Gamba on 35 and and Urawa on 32 in an unchanged top three.

At Saitama Stadium 2002, Paraguayan striker Santiago “Sasa” Salcedo marked his arrival in style by opening the scoring for FC Tokyo but the night belonged to Ponte.

Former Cerro Porteno man Salcedo took just six minutes to open his account for the Gasmen when he stooped to head home Jo Kanazawa’s pinpoint cross from the left.

The visitor was in control for much of the first half but Urawa came to life five minutes before the break and Nagai leveled when he collected a clever pass from Ponte and beat Yoichi Doi with an angled drive.

And Doi was helpless to stop Ponte from sealing a memorable debut with a curling effort from just outside the area to send the red sea of Urawa fans behind the goal into dreamland.

Urawa manager Guido Buchwald said, “It was a wonderful goal. Ponte was the best player on the pitch today.”

Kashima suffered an early blow when defender Daiki Iwamasa was sent off after just 17 minutes and things got worse when Hisato Sato fired Hiroshima into the lead on the stroke of halftime.

Alex Mineiro leveled in the 71st minute but Shunsuke Maeda gave Hiroshima all three points in the dying stages.

In Niigata, an own goal and second-half strikes from Edmilson and Shingo Suzuki helped Albirex overpower Gamba while a Bobby Cullen double put Jubilo Iwata on the way to a 3-1 win over Yokohama F. Marinos.

At the other end of the table, Atsuhiro Miura struck 13 minutes from time as bottom club Vissel Kobe beat Nagoya Grampus Eight.

Kawasaki Frontale edged Oita Trinta 2-1, while Cerezo Osaka against Shimizu S-Pulse finished 1-1.

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