NAGOYA – Nagoya Grampus stayed in the hunt for its first J. League title after a 3-1 win over already relegated Consadole Sapporo on Sunday kept the pressure on Kashima Antlers heading into next weekend’s final round of matches.
Yoshizumi Ogawa set Grampus on its way with his 11th goal of the season and further strikes from Keita Sugimoto and Atsushi Yoneyama kept Grampus within two points of Kashima to set up an intriguing climax to the season.
Kashima, 1-0 winners over Jubilo Iwata on Saturday, is favorite to retain its title and can clinch its sixth championship crown at Sapporo next Saturday. Kashima’s vastly superior goal difference over Nagoya means it would almost certainly claim the title even with a point at Sapporo Dome and a Grampus win.
Kawasaki Frontale is the only other team left in contention after Saturday’s 4-0 demolition of Vissel Kobe saw it stay three points behind the leader.
Nagoya faces the sternest test on the final day with a trip to Nabisco Cup winner Oita Trinita, while Frontale is in action at relegation-threatened Tokyo Verdy.
Ogawa gave Nagoya a dream start when he rattled a free kick in off the post after just seven minutes and Sugimoto was on hand to tap in the second six minutes later after Sapporo goalkeeper Yuya Sato had fluffed Frode Johnsen’s header.
Magnum spurned an excellent chance to make it 3-0 by screwing wide after 38 minutes and the Brazilian had Grampus manager Dragan Stojkovic kicking the bench in frustration when he blazed over midway through the second half after a neat lay off from Johnsen.
Stojkovic was left seething again moments later and hauled off Takahiro Masukawa immediately after a blunder from the central defender allowed Davi to steal in and pull one back for the visitors.
The Serbian boss sent on Yoneyama for Johnsen with five minutes left and that move paid dividends as the veteran midfielder hammered home a free kick to seal victory in injury time.
In Sunday’s other matches, Albirex Niigata missed the chance to guarantee itself top-flight soccer next season after a 1-0 defeat at FC Tokyo left it just two points above the relegation zone.
Kyoto Sanga, meanwhile, pulled to safety after Takenori Hayashi’s equalizer earned a 1-1 draw at Omiya Ardija.
Yamagata going up
EHIME (Kyodo) Montedio Yamagata clinched promotion to the J. League first division on Sunday with a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win at Ehime FC.
Ehime led 2-1 through Daisuke Aono’s double but Tatsuya Ishikawa leveled a minute from time before Beijing Olympic striker Yohei Toyoda’s effort won it in injury time to send Yamagata into the top flight for the first time.