CHIBA – Brazilian striker Washington scored twice in the space of 10 first-half minutes as first-place Urawa Reds consigned JEF United Chiba’s six-match winning streak to the dustbin with a 4-2 victory at Fukuda Denshi Arena on Saturday.
Arena on Saturday. Urawa won 4-2.
Urawa’s win temporarily lifted it nine points clear of Gamba Osaka on a day when the first-division whipping boys, Yokohama FC, were finally put out of their misery and condemned to the drop after just one season in the top flight.
Washington set Urawa on its way by sweeping home Makoto Hasebe’s cross in the 29th minute and was left with a bloody nose after bravely heading home his 15th of the season to double the visitors’ lead six minutes before halftime.
Hasebe, who has been linked with a move to Italy, also had a hand in the third goal, picking out Ponte, whose 50th-minute strike was too hot to handle for Chiba goalkeeper Tomonori Tateishi.
Substitute Reinaldo and Naotake Hanyu hit back for Chiba but Tatsuya Tanaka put the result beyond doubt when he stabbed home from close range in stoppage time.
With five games of the season remaining, Urawa has 67 points while Gamba has 58.
Third-placed Kashima Antlers (57) kept their slim title hopes alive as World Cup striker Atsushi Yanagisawa sealed a 3-1 win at Jubilo Iwata.
Gamba could close the gap to six points again with victory over relegation-haunted Ventforet Kofu on Sunday.
Having started the day 14 points adrift of the relegation-promotion playoff spot, Yokohama needed a minor miracle to retain its first-division status and its task was made even more difficult after fellow strugglers Omiya Ardija beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 in an earlier match.
Seiji Koga fired Vissel Kobe, 3-0 winners, into a 10th-minute lead at Home’s Stadium and grabbed his second in the 64th before Hideo Tanaka hammered the final nail in Yokohama’s coffin with a late tally.
Yokohama has just 11 points and cannot catch Omiya, which occupies the 16th playoff spot on 27 points.
Substitute Manabu Wakabayashi’s late strike secured Omiya the vital points in its bid to extricate itself from the relegation quagmire with the only goal of the game at Komaba Stadium.
Omiya’s win moved it within two points of safety behind Hiroshima, which is left hovering dangerously close to the drop zone after a fifth defeat in a row.
Daiki Takamatsu and Daisuke Takahashi were on target as Oita Trinita eased their relegation fears with a 2-1 win at home to Kashiwa Reysol.
The bottom two teams are automatically relegated while the 16th-placed team can ensure first-division survival by beating the third-placed team in the second division in a two-leg playoff in December.
Elsewhere, Nabisco Cup finalists Kawasaki Frontale beat Albirex Niigata 4-3 thanks to Kengo Nakamura’s last-gasp winner, while Shimizu S-Pulse ran out 2-0 winners at Yokohama F. Marinos courtesy of Takuro Yajima’s second-half brace.
Nagoya Grampus Eight play FC Tokyo in Sunday’s only other fixture.
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