SAITAMA – Yosuke Kashiwagi scored a brace on Sunday to keep Urawa Reds in the hunt for a league and cup double with a 2-1 win over next weekend’s Nabisco Cup final opponents Kashiwa Reysol.
Kashiwagi struck twice in six first-half minutes to complete a league double over Kashiwa and keep Urawa within two points of leaders Yokohama F. Marinos.
Yokohama (59) reclaimed top spot as Shunsuke Nakamura’s free kick on the stroke of halftime gave it a 1-0 win at relegated Oita Trinita. Champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who beat Vegalta Sendai 1-0 on Saturday, are third on 56 with four games left.
Kashiwa came into the match looking to avenge their 6-2 defeat at National Stadium in May, but made the worst possible start and fell behind after five minutes of an entertaining first half in windy Saitama.
Kashiwa goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno could only parry Genki Haraguchi’s shot, and Kashiwagi pounced to head in the loose ball before sweeping in his second of the game courtesy of a left-wing cross from Tomoaki Makino.
“The ball just happened to fall to me after Genki’s shot and the second one I was able to put away calmly. That is something I haven’t been able to do from that position,” Kashiwagi said.
“I’m delighted to score two goals at home. Hopefully we can win the cup next week and then go and win the league as well.”
It did not take long for Kashiwa to respond, Masato Kudo sweeping captain Hidekazu Otani’s pass into an empty net. Otani, who is suspended for next week’s cup final, nearly equalized with a shot that hit the post just after the half-hour mark.
With Jorge Wagner entering the fray, Kashiwa, which lost left back Wataru Hashimoto shortly before the break, made a fist of it in the second period, but was unable to find a way past Urawa ‘keeper Norihiro Yamagishi.
“It was a close, tough game. Kashiwa are a great side,” said Urawa boss Mihailo Petrovic. “There is no pressure for them as they are neither up at the top or down at the bottom, but for us every game now is huge.”
“We got two early goals but Kashiwa pulled one back quickly, and that made it a really hard game, but the players worked hard to protect our lead. This is a massive win and we will keep on going right until the death.”
Kashiwa boss Nelsinho admitted his side had paid the price for such a dreadful start to the game.
“I can’t explain why we started like that. We didn’t wake up until we were two goals down, but we got a goal back and started creating chances,” said the Brazilian. “I thought after that we were technically and tactically the better team.”
In other games, Yuya Osako was on target as Kashima Antlers hammered Kawasaki Frontale 4-1, and Marcus Tulio Tanaka hit a double to give Nagoya Grampus a 2-1 win over Omiya Ardija.
At the bottom of the table, Ventforet Kofu were denied three vital points in their bid to escape the drop after a late goal from Yuhei Tokunaga earned FC Tokyo a 1-1 draw in Yamanashi.
Kofu, however, still moved six points clear of the drop zone as third-from-bottom Shonan Bellmare were beaten 3-2 away to Albirex Niigata, Kengo Kawamata scoring a hat-trick for Albirex to take his tally for the season to 20.
Jubilo Iwata, 11 points off the safety zone, are now all but certain to become the second former J.League champions in as many seasons to be relegated after going down 1-0 in the Shizuoka derby at home to Shimizu S-Pulse.