• Kyodo

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The resurgent Kashima Antlers dealt Sanfrecce Hiroshima their first defeat of the J. League second stage with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday.

Hiroshima had won its first five games of the stage but that run came to an end at Edion Stadium, where defender Shuto Yamamoto scored the lone goal midway through the first half.

Kashima has now won all three games under new manager Masatada Ishii, who replaced Toninho Cerezo last month, and moved within two points of leader Sanfrecce.

Ishii said the win will be a major confidence-booster.

“We knew we were going to have to be resilient like when we played against Tosu,” Ishii said, referring to the 3-0 win away to Sagan before the break for the East Asian Cup. “The boys left everything out there on the pitch tonight.

“This victory definitely counts for a lot more than three points. But as we were all saying in the dressing room, we need to build on this win because if we don’t, it won’t mean a thing.”

Kashima reached the scoreboard in the 32nd minute from a Yasushi Endo corner, an unmarked Yamamoto heading home his first goal of the campaign.

Desperate to keep the win streak intact, the hosts put Antlers under incessant pressure but apart from substitute Takuma Asano hitting the post in the second half, Sanfrecce failed to produce clear-cut opportunities.

Yamamoto credited his side’s defending for turning in another cleansheet.

“We made sure we won today,” Yamamoto said. “It was a great ball from (Endo), and I’m glad I was able to make the most of it.

“A cleansheet certainly adds to your confidence. But we need to continue this, and not let this be some little streak we’re on. The atmosphere on the team is good right now even in training. We just need to keep this up.”

In other J1 results, Kashiwa Reysol defeated Vissel Kobe 2-0 at home to climb within three points of Hiroshima while Shimizu S-Pulse lost 2-1 at home to Shonan Bellmare in their first game under Kazuaki Tasaka.

Fourth-place Kawasaki Frontale shared the points in a 0-0 home draw with Montedio Yamagata, and first-stage winners Urawa Reds beat Albirex Niigata 2-1 at the Big Swan.

Yokohama F. Marinos hammered Nagoya Grampus 3-0 away with FC Tokyo winning 1-0 against Ventforet in Kofu. Vegalta Sendai defeated Matsumoto Yamaga 3-1 at home.

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