SAITAMA — Japan international Alessandro Santos scored a stunning free-kick and set up another goal as Urawa Reds beat Omiya Ardija 3-1 in a bruising Saitama derby on Saturday.

Santos, popularly known as Alex, opened the scoring after just three minutes before Naoto Sakurai equalized four minutes later.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka headed in an Alex corner to put Urawa back in front on 53 minutes and Tomislav Maric sealed the victory in the 69th minute with a well-executed turn and shot.

In full-blooded derby fashion, there was no holding back on the tackles, particularly from the Reds players.

“It was a very important game for both teams, and a hard physical contest,” said Urawa manager Guido Buchwald.

“We wanted revenge because we lost to them in the first game,” he said referring to the 2-1 league defeat in July.

The win moves Urawa above Cerezo Osaka into third place in the J. League standings and cuts the gap between leader Gamba Osaka and the Reds to seven points after Gamba suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to Oita Trinita.

Magno Alves opened the scoring for Oita in the 65th minute and doubled the lead five minutes later.

Yasuhito Endo pulled one back, but Trinita held on for the victory at Expo ’70 Stadium.

Second place Kashima Antlers kept the pressure on Gamba with a 1-0 home win at Kashima Stadium over Nagoya Grampus Eight, Masashi Motoyama’s goal in the 59th minute separating the sides.

With six games left to play, Gamba is on 54 points, with Kashima now two points behind, Urawa on 47 and Cerezo 46.

Cerezo plays Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Sunday.

Omiya sits in 16th place on 28 points, with just Tokyo Verdy and Vissel Kobe below them.

“We know the reality of the situation and we have to fight as a team to stay up,” said grave-looking Omiya manager Toshiya Miura.

FC Tokyo beat Tokyo Verdy 2-1 at Ajinomoto Stadium and JEF United Chiba thrashed Vissel Kobe 4-0 at its new Fukuda Denshi Arena.

Elsewhere, Kyoto Purple Sanga gained one of two promotion places to the J. League first division.

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