TOYOTA, AICHI PREF. – Urawa Reds downed relegation-threatened Nagoya Grampus 2-0 on Saturday in the J. League and moved top of the second-stage standings with their seventh win in eight games.
Yuki Muto’s low effort opened the scoring a minute before intermission and Zlatan Ljubijankic added the second three minutes from time at Toyota Stadium, with Nagoya’s winless run reaching 16 games under new coach and general manager Takafumi Ogura.
“We knew Nagoya will have high motivation coming into the game. My players took control of the game and scored a goal,” Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic said. “I told them they’ll come pressing from the front after the break so let them have the ball a bit and strike on the counter. We were able to remain patient.”
Urawa moved top after Kawasaki Frontale lost 1-0 away to Sagan Tosu, Kim Min-woo striking right after the break to move his team up to fourth. Urawa has 22 points and host Kawasaki, on 19, square off in a top-of-the-table clash next weekend.
Without giant forward Robin Simovic and playing five at the back, Grampus were on the back foot from the start as Tomoaki Makino fired a free header over the bar from a corner before Muto and Toshiyuki Takagi both shot wide from in and around the box.
Speedster Kensuke Nagai and returning midfielder and captain Taishi Taguchi created some openings but final deliveries let Grampus down, and Muto scored his fifth goal in as many games as he slotted under the arms of veteran goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki following a short pass into the box from lefty Yosuke Kashiwagi.
Ryuji Izumi took Grampus’ first real chance on a 49th-minute counter, only to see his shot blocked, while Takagi had a stinging effort saved at the other end in the 62nd minute before substitute Ljubijankic sealed the game, latching on to a long ball from ‘keeper Shusaku Nishikawa and lifting over Narazaki.
Elsewhere, Gamba Osaka won 2-0 at Jubilo Iwata to sit third, while Yokohama F. Marinos drew 1-1 at home to Omiya Ardija to drop to fifth.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima won 2-1 at Shonan Bellmare to move up to sixth, while Vissel Kobe thumped FC Tokyo 4-1 at home and Kashiwa Reysol lost 4-2 at Vegalta Sendai.
Ventforet Kofu moved four points clear of relegation with a 1-0 home win over Albirex Niigata.