KASHIMA – Ten-man Urawa Reds pulled off a remarkable comeback to hold Kashima Antlers 2-2 away and blow the title race wide open as Gamba Osaka moved top of the J. League first-division with a 1-0 win away to Tokyo Verdy on Saturday.
Goals from Mitsuo Ogasawara and Alex Mineiro put Kashima in control and the visitor suffered another blow when Marcus Tulio Tanaka was sent off just after the hour mark in a bad-tempered affair that saw referee Joji Kashihara dish out 12 yellow cards and one red.
But Tatsuya Tanaka pulled one back and recent signing Robson Ponte’s goal sparked wild scenes of jubilation among the swarms of traveling Reds fans at Kashima Stadium to snatch a point three minutes from time.
Gamba took full advantage of Kashima’s late collapse as Brazilian goal machine Araujo grabbed his 21st of the season 12 minutes from time to move Akira Nishino’s side top of the standings for the first time in five years.
Gamba, which is aiming to become the first team from western Japan to win the league, improved to 44 points from 22 games, one ahead of Kashima while third place Urawa’s point keeps it firmly in contention with 37 points.
Ogasawara fired the home side into the lead from a hotly disputed penalty in the 18th minute after Satoshi Horinouchi was adjudged to have fouled Japan striker Takayuki Suzuki.
Ponte saw a curling effort go just wide and Kashima benefited from more good fortune as Mineiro doubled the lead in the 28th minute with a shot that took a deflection off Tulio Tanaka to give Ryota Tsuzuki no chance.
It was a bad day all round for Tulio Tanaka, who won a free-kick only to get booked twice in rapid succession for dissent and sent off as tempers flared.
Tatsuya Tanaka gave Urawa hope by heading home after Kashima keeper Hitoshi Sogahata could only parry a shot from substitute Alessandro Santos and Santos then provided the cross for Ponte to slot home the equalizer from close range.
Hiroshima was held to a 1-1 draw at home to JEF United Chiba, Satoru Yamagishi’s equalizer for the visitor canceling out Galvao’s opener.
Kim Jin Kyu headed a late winner to pile more misery on lowly Oita Trinita as Jubilo Iwata ran out 2-1 winner in Kyushu while Kashiwa Reysol eased its relegation fears by beating FC Tokyo 4-2, Keiji Tamada and Reinaldo both scoring twice.
Elsewhere, Edmilson grabbed his 12th of the season as Albirex Niigata romped to a 4-1 win away to 10-man Ardija and Koji Yamase rescued a late point for Yokohama F. Marinos in the 2-2 draw at home to Nagoya Grampus Eight.
Cerezo Osaka edged Vissel Kobe 2-1 courtesy of a 76th-minute header from Fabinho while Shimizu S-Pulse came from two goals down to beat Kawasaki Frontale 3-2.
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