SAITAMA – Marcus Tulio Tanaka scored a hat-trick as Urawa Reds reclaimed top spot in the J. League with an entertaining 3-2 win at home to Tokyo Verdy on Thursday night.
Tulio wrapped up the scoring near the hour mark with his second header of the night to send the Asian club champions one point clear of Kashima Antlers, who were sunk 2-1 at Kyoto Sanga on Wednesday.
“We conceded top spot after our last game but Kashima lost yesterday and so we knew we had to win,” said Tulio. “It was a lame performance at Oita (on Saturday) and gave us something to reflect on. Now our target is to keep the results coming game by game.”
Nagoya Grampus spurned the chance to move level with Reds on 32 points at the halfway stage of the season after going down 2-1 away to Jubilo Iwata. Grampus, Kashiwa Reysol and Gamba Osaka, held 1-1 at FC Tokyo on Wednesday, all have 29 points.
Urawa fell behind after eight minutes when Hulk converted from the penalty spot after he had been floored by Yuki Abe, but Tulio bagged his first of the night when he beat Yoichi Doi with a trademark header from Abe’s 23rd-minute corner.
Tulio was then presented with the chance to put Reds in front from the penalty spot following Seitaro Tomisawa’s foul on Naohiro Takahara, and the defender-turned midfielder made no mistake.
Hulk’s power and pace caused no end of problems for the Reds defense, and it was a surging run from the rugged Brazilian that set up compatriot Deigo to clip past the advancing Ryota Tsuzuki to ensure it was honors even going into the interval.
However, Urawa moved into the ascendancy after the break and the Abe-Tulio hotline paid off again when Tulio sealed victory with his ninth league goal of the season.
At Yamaha Stadium, Yoshizumi Ogawa took advantage of some suicidal defending by Hideto Suzuki to rifle Nagoya ahead on five minutes and the visitors had goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki to thank for protecting their lead with a smart block from Gilsinho.
But equally poor marking from Grampus saw Takayuki Chano net a free header three minutes into the second half and Sho Naruoka completed the win moments later with a shot in off the post from 20 meters.
In other games, Kashiwa beat Omiya Ardija 1-0 at home courtesy of Franca’s 79th-minute strike and climbed above Nagoya and Gamba into third on goal difference while a double from Hiroyuki Taniguchi saw Kawasaki Frontale (26) move into sixth after a come-from-behind 2-1 win at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.
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