SUITA, Osaka Pref. – Magno Alves bagged his 22nd goal of the season as Gamba Osaka kept the pressure on first place Urawa Reds with a 1-0 win over visiting JEF United Chiba in the J. League first division on Sunday.
The Brazilian forward’s 55th-minute strike boosted Gamba’s hopes of a second straight league crown as victory lifted them to within three points of Urawa, which was stunned 1-0 away to Nagoya Grampus Eight on Saturday.
With three games left to play, Urawa, which hosts Gamba at Saitama Stadium 2002 on the final day of the season, has 65 points with Gamba on 62 and Kawasaki Frontale, 2-1 winners over Avispa Fukuoka on Saturday, another point adrift.
Meanwhile, Cerezo Osaka, pipped by their crosstown rivals to the title on the last day of the 2005 season, remain firmly entrenched in the battle for survival after a 2-2 draw away to Albirex Niigata.
Former Japan internationals Akinori Nishizawa and Hiroshi Nanami were on target for the visitors, who are looking to avoid relegation via the back door of an end-of-season playoff.
Cerezo occupy the 16th spot in the 18-team table, one point ahead of Fukuoka and Kyoto Purple Sanga.
The bottom two teams automatically go down while the 16th-placed team’s fate hangs on the outcome of a promotion-relegation playoff.
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