SAITAMA – The high-flying Urawa Reds earned a little breathing space at the top of the J. League Saturday after a 3-2 win over visiting FC Tokyo.
Tatsuya Tanaka pounced to cancel out a shock opener from Tokyo striker Shingo Akamine before Satoshi Horinouchi and Robson Ponte both found the target to send the Reds four points clear as faltering Gamba crashed to a 4-1 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale.
Tanaka, lively on his return to the Japan national team in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Cameroon, brought out a fine save from Tokyo goalkeeper Hitoshi Shiota in the 16th minute but it was the Gasmen that drew first blood at Saitama Stadium 2002.
Akamine rolled into an empty net in the 33rd minute after Brazilian Rychely had poked the ball through Ryota Tsuzuki’s legs but Tokyo’s joy lasted just four minutes as Tanaka capitalized on poor defending to slot home from close range.
Horinouchi got on the end of a Tadaaki Hirakawa cross to head the Reds in front four minutes before the break before Ponte burst through to add an insurance goal just after the hour mark.
Yasuyuki Konno pulled one back for the visitors when he poked home a free kick from Yohei Kajiyama but Sota Hirayama spurned a golden chance to equalize and Urawa held on to take all three points.
“It was a difficult match so obviously we are pleased to get the win,” said Tanaka. “But we want to be the team that takes the lead so there are things that we still need to work on.”
At Todoroki Stadium, three goals in a five-minute spell in the second half from striker Juninho and Chong Tese killed off Gamba, now without a win in three matches, while Kashima Antlers moved within seven points of the Reds in third spot after Shinzo Koroki came off the bench to fire them to a 2-1 win over bottom club Yokohama FC.
Franca settled the Chiba derby with the winner as Kashiwa Reysol edged JEF United Chiba 1-0 to go fifth above Yokohama F. Marinos. The F. Marinos take on Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Sunday, when fourth-placed Albirex Niigata host Shimizu S-Pulse.
Elsewhere, Toshiya Fujita scored to become only the fourth player in the J. League to reach the 100-goal mark as Nagoya Grampus Eight hammered lowly Omiya Ardija 5-0, while Jubilo Iwata beat Ventforet Kofu 2-1 and Oita Trinita blanked 10-man Vissel Kobe 2-0.
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