Stunning long-range strikes from Fernando and Takuya Nozawa gave Kashima Antlers a 2-1 victory over Shimizu S-Pulse in Tokyo on Saturday.

News photoHisato Sato (center) of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Urawa Reds midfielder Alessandro Santos compete for the
ball as Keisuke Tsuboi looks on during Saturday’s J. League clash at Saitama Stadium 2002.

The Antlers threw a wrench into Shimizu’s championship challenge by ending its eight-match unbeaten run, but Kashima’s own title hopes were put into perspective by league-leading Gamba Osaka’s 2-0 win against Oita Trinita.

On-fire striker Ryuji Bando scored twice in the first half to give the defending J. League champions three points that kept them 10 clear of the Antlers.

Urawa Reds beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-1 at Saitama Stadium later on Saturday to leapfrog Kawasaki Frontale into second place on 49 points, three points behind Gamba.

At National Stadium, Kashima’s Fernando crashed in a left-footed drive from the edge of the area to beat ‘keeper Yohei Nishibe on the stroke of halftime.

Nozawa doubled the away side’s lead in the 61st minute with a curling effort from 25 meters that departed long-range specialist Mitsuo Ogasawara would have been proud of.

Shimizu reduced the lead nine minutes later when Takuma Edamura forced home from close range, but Kashima held on in an entertaining second half in front of 20,000 fans.

“Shimizu is a very good side and work very hard, so we knew we would have it tough today,” said Antlers boss Paulo Autuori. “Things went well until we were 2-0 up, but then we took our foot off the pedal. That’s something we have to look at.”

Elsewhere, Brazilian striker Paulinho dispatched a penalty to give Kyoto Purple Sanga a 1-0 victory over visiting FC Tokyo.

Yokohama F. Marinos won away 3-1 to Avispa Fukuoka, and Nagoya Grampus Eight beat Albirex Niigata 3-1.

Cerezo Osaka beat JEF United Chiba 3-2 at Nagai Stadium later on Saturday.

Kawasaki Frontale has a chance to move back to second spot on Sunday evening when it hosts Jubilo Iwata at Todoroki Stadium, while Ventforet Kofu plays Omiya Ardija in the other remaining J. League fixture of the weekend.

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