TOYOTA, Aichi Pref. – Frode Johnsen scored a late winner as Nagoya Grampus Eight stunned Urawa Reds 1-0 in the J. League on Saturday, handing Gamba Osaka a chance to cut the Reds’ lead at the top of the table to three points in the process.
Reds in their J. League match on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
Urawa dominated for long stretches at Toyota Stadium, but the visitors were made to pay for poor finishing when Norwegian striker Johnsen headed past Norihiro Yamagishi in the 80th minute to give Nagoya its third win in a row.
Urawa, which looks set to lose German manager Guido Buchwald at the end of the campaign, is four points ahead of Kawasaki Frontale, and six points clear of defending champions Gamba, with three games of the season remaining.
Its advantage, though, could shrink to three points if defending champion Gamba beats JEF United Chiba at Expo Stadium on Sunday.
Chances were few and far between in a scrappy first half, but Reds went close to breaching a well-organized Grampus defense when Washington hit the post from an acute angle after 22 minutes.
The burly former Brazil striker just failed to connect with a Robson Ponte cross moments later, while Naoshi Nakamura’s swerving drive at the other end failed to trouble Urawa ‘keeper Yamagishi.
Reds spurned a hatful of chances after the interval, Nobuhisa Yamada missing the visitors’ best opportunity when he sprang the offside trap only to see his shot blocked by Nagoya ‘keeper Seigo Narazaki.
That miss was to prove costly as Keisuke Honda found space on the left and sent in a cross for Johnsen to beat marker Hideki Uchidate and net with a stooping header.
“I feel great. We were a bit lucky but that’s allowed in football,” said Johnsen.
Defeat for Urawa came just days after the German daily Die Welt reported that Buchwald is considering leaving Urawa at the end of the season to spend more time with his family.
Elsewhere, Kawasaki Frontale kept their title hopes alive with a late 2-1 win over lowly Avispa Fukuoka to move into second place.
Kazuki Ganaha, a two-goal hero in Japan’s 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia in midweek, put Kawasaki in front with a 60th-minute penalty, and Hiroyuki Taniguchi struck a late winner after Fukuoka had leveled through substitute Yusuke Tanaka.
The result means the only way for Avispa to avoid a swift return to the second division is to finish 16th in the table, and then win a promotion-relegation playoff with the team that finishes in third spot in the second division.
Fukuoka is next to last on 25 points, the same number as 16th-place Cerezo Osaka, which travels to Albirex Niigata in Sunday’s other match.
Kyoto Purple Sanga remains rooted to the foot of the table on 22 points after a 1-0 defeat away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The bottom two teams are automatically relegated.
In other matches, Ryoichi Maeda struck twice as Jubilo Iwata romped to a 4-1 win over FC Tokyo, and Yuzo Tashiro headed a double as Kashima Antlers won 3-0 at Omiya Ardija.
Jungo Fujimoto also scored twice as Shimizu S-Pulse won 3-2 at Yokohama F Marinos, while 10-man Ventforet Kofu beat Oita Trinita 2-0 courtesy of goals from Bare and Takehito Shigehara.
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