FUKUROI, Shizuoka Pref. – Kashima Antlers’ hopes of capturing a fifth J. League title took a hit Sunday after they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Jubilo Iwata.
Chikashi Masuda gave Kashima the lead with a well taken strike early in the second half, but Bobby Cullen leveled for Iwata moments after coming off the bench at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa.
The result meant Kashima slipped five points behind leader Gamba Osaka, which continued its march toward a first title with a 4-1 thrashing of first-division whipping boys Vissel Kobe on Saturday.
With seven games left to play, Gamba leads the table on 54 points with Kashima in second on 49 and Cerezo Osaka in third on 46.
The result also dented Jubilo’s slim title hopes. The 2002 champion is now 11 points off the pace with Kawasaki Frontale and JEF United Chiba, which was held to a 2-2 draw at home to Yokohama F. Marinos in Sunday’s other fixture.
In Chiba Prefecture, JEF looked set to christen its new Fukuda Denshi Arena with a win when Seiichiro Maki’s 11th goal of the season gave it a 2-1 lead in the 89th minute.
But Daisuke Sakata popped up to spoil the party with an equalizer for the defending champion in the dying seconds.
Reds’ Tanaka out
SAITAMA (Kyodo) Urawa Reds striker Tatsuya Tanaka will be out of action for five to six months after being diagnosed with a dislocation fracture in his right ankle, officials of the J. League first-division club said Sunday.
Tanaka was stretchered off the pitch during Urawa’s 7-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol on Saturday. Tanaka is expected to undergo an operation on the ankle in the next few days.
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