Fading Kashiwa Reysol were held 0-0 at home to Omiya Ardija as leaders Gamba Osaka’s bid for a second title in three seasons got another boost in the J-League on Saturday.

News photoOita Trinita midfielder Daisuke Takahashi (left) reacts with midfieler Tsukasa Umesaki after scoring a
goal to tie at 2 on final minute of Saturday’s game against Kashima Antlers at Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita.

The surprise package of the season so far, promoted Kashiwa were completely outplayed by Omiya and poor finishing in the last 15 minutes proved costly as they slipped further behind front-running Gamba, who ran out 2-1 winners at home to 10-man Yokohama FC.

Japan internationals Hideo Hashimoto and Yasuhito Endo scored a goal each half at Expo Stadium to lift Gamba seven points clear of idle Urawa Reds, who are in China playing in the “A3” East Asian Championship.

Kashiwa dropped nine points off the pace but it could have all been a different story for the Chiba outfit had they taken their chances as Omiya ran out of steam at Kashiwanoha Stadium.

“We knew Omiya would come to defend and worked on ways we might break it down in training this week. But we didn’t have enough movement after making passes and weren’t able to create a good shape,” said Kashiwa manager Nobuhiro Ishizaki.

Omiya came into the match on the back of an impressive four-match unbeaten run that included draws away to champions Urawa and Kawasaki Frontale but they failed to make any headway despite dominating the first period.

The visitors were guilty of over-elaborating on more than one occasion in the final third of the pitch, although Daigo Kobayashi almost gave them the lead when his shot was acrobatically turned away by Yuta Minami in the 39th minute.

In contrast, Kashiwa looked a pale imitation of the side that had made such an excellent start to the season and Tadanari Lee scuffed wide after Franca had created their best chance of the match midway though the second period.

The home side stepped up a gear and Minoru Suganuma saw a shot beaten away by Hiroki Aratani before substitute Tomonori Hirayama headed over a golden chance with moments remaining.

Omiya remain in the relegation zone but manager Robert Verbeek had no complaints about his side’s performance.

“We controlled the game for 75 minutes and did a very good job, especially in the first half and it was the same against Kawasaki Frontale. Kashiwa couldn’t find any space,” said Verbeek.

In other matches, Albirex Niigata came from a goal down to beat in-form Vissel Kobe 3-1 thanks to a Marcio Richardes double while Daisuke Takahashi completed a brace with a last-minute equalizer for Oita Trinita in a 2-2 draw at home to Kashima Antlers.

In Saturday’s evening fixtures, Takayuki Yoshida scored the only goal of the game and then got sent off as Yokohama F Marinos sentenced troubled JEF United Chiba to their fourth defeat in a row, while Nagoya Grampus Eight and Kawasaki played out a 2-2 draw at Toyota Stadium.

Ventforet Kofu play Jubilo Iwata and Shimizu S-Pulse host FC Tokyo in Sunday’s games. Urawa’s game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima had been rescheduled for Aug. 1.

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