YOKOHAMA – High-flying Urawa Reds continued their march toward consecutive J. League championship crowns with a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Yokohama F. Marinos on Saturday.
Yuichiro Nagai’s 66th-minute strike did the damage as Urawa capped a fine week following their 2-1 win over holders Chonbuk Motors in the first leg of the Asian Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Reds temporarily moved seven points clear at top of the table as second-placed Gamba Osaka are in action at Jubilo Iwata on Sunday.
Kashima Antlers reclaimed third spot and sit 10 points behind the Reds after Yuzo Tashiro’s double lifted them to a come-from-behind 3-1 win over visiting Albirex Niigata.
Yokohama were missing influential midfielder and former Reds star Koji Yamase through suspension but it was the home side who enjoyed the better of an entertaining first half in front of 48,166 at Nissan Stadium.
Brazilian midfielder Marques brought a breathtaking save out of Ryota Tsuzuki after 22 minutes and Daisuke Sakata, two-goal hero in last week’s win at Gamba, should have converted the best chance of the half 11 minutes before halftime.
Takanobu Komiyama swung an inviting cross into the danger zone but the sea of Reds supporters behind Tsuzuki’s goal breathed a collective sigh of relief as Sakata contrived to slice the ball into the side netting.
Urawa were let off the hook again on the stroke of halftime when Yuji Nakazawa lost his marker but directed a free header straight into the arms of the grateful Tsuzuki.
Urawa came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and Robson Ponte hit the crossbar before Nagai atoned for an earlier miss by ramming the ball home from Ponte’s pass.
Yokohama had Norihisa Shimizu sent off for his second bookable offense 14 minutes from time and Urawa held on after a late onslaught from the home side.
At the other end of the table, Daiki Takamatsu and Masato Yamazaki were on target as Oita Trinita pushed Yokohama FC further towards the relegation trapdoor and boosted their own chances of survival with a 2-0 win at Kyushu Oil Dome.
Oita’s victory kept them five points clear of the relegation zone.
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