• Kyodo


Koji Yamase scored a contender for goal of the season as visiting Yokohama F Marinos put another dent in Gamba Osaka’s bid for back-to-back J. League titles after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

News photo Kyoto Purple Sanga forward Paulinho, left, battles for the ball with Albirex Niigata defender Kazuhiro
Chiba in the second half in Saturday’s game at Niigata Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Yamase’s 44th-minute strike looked to have condemned Gamba to their third defeat on the trot until Magno Alves struck his 17th goal of the season with four minutes remaining at Expo Stadium.

Magno Alves could have had a hat trick and it was very much a case of two points lost for Akira Nishino’s men, who trudged off the pitch knowing the result has presented the Urawa Reds with a great chance to put daylight between themselves and the defending champions.

Urawa could stretch its lead at the top of the table to five points with a win at home to relegation-threatened Avispa Fukuoka on Sunday.

A speculative effort from Takahiro Futagawa and a well-struck Magno Alves free kick was all Gamba had to offer in the first period and Yamase fired the visitors into the lead against the run of play with his team’s first shot on goal.

Daisuke Sakata found Yamase with his back to the goal and the former Urawa Reds man produced a sublime piece of skill to turn and ram an unstoppable shot past Gamba ‘keeper Yosuke Fujigaya.

With Yuji Nakazawa doing a fine job at the heart of Yokohama’s defense, Gamba rarely looked like finding a way through in the first half but a mistake from the World Cup defender almost gifted Alves an equalizer in the 49th minute.

Nakazawa attempted to clear a pass and the ball hit his arm and fell into the path of Alves, only for the Brazilian striker to shoot wastefully wide.

The home side finally made the breakthrough when Magno Alves pounced on a loose ball to smash the ball through Yuzo Kurihara’s legs and past goalkeeper Tetsuya Enomoto.

Gamba pipped Cerezo Osaka to the title on the final day of last season but their crosstown rivals are staring relegation in the face this term and look doomed despite a battling 1-1 draw away to Oita Trinita.

Elsewhere, an own goal gave fellow strugglers Kyoto Purple Sanga a 1-1 draw away to Albirex Niigata while Nagoya Grampus Eight against Shimizu S-Pulse also finished 1-1.

Japan midfielder Yuki Abe scored a hat trick as JEF United Chiba thrashed Kashima Antlers 4-0 away and Ryoichi Maeda netted his 12th of the season to give Jubilo Iwata a 2-1 win at home to Omiya Ardija.

Japan striker Kazuki Ganaha struck in each half as Kawasaki Frontale beat Ventforet Kofu 2-0 at home and are now four points adrift of Urawa.

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