• Kyodo

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Substitute Kentaro Moriya scored the winner as Kawasaki Frontale defeated second-stage leader Urawa Reds 2-1 to regain the top spot in the J. League on Saturday.

After Kengo Nakamura’s strike was canceled out by Tadanari Lee’s ‘s scrappy first-half goal, Moriya slid home the winner three minutes after coming on in the 71st minute. The win moved Frontale above Urawa on goal difference with both teams on 22 points.

“I could see my teammates’ determination sitting on the bench. It was great to score with my first touch,” said the 27-year-old midfielder. “There was not much instruction but coming on in that situation means you’re asked to deliver something decisive.

“I had both my two goals against Urawa last year but I believe it’s just coincidence, I’d like to give my best whoever we are facing.”

Kawasaki manager Yahiro Kazama said, “We started controlling the game in the second half, but we hope to do that for the whole 90 minutes. It’s important to play thinking what our oppositions’ intentions are, and I saw growth in my players in using time well when in possession.”

Urawa suffered its first defeat in 11 games having won seven and drawn one in the second stage, while Kawasaki bounced back from a defeat last week, when its 16-game unbeaten run — seven in the second stage — came to an end with a 1-0 defeat at Sagan Tosu.

Toshiyuki Takagi had the first clear sight on goal as Lee’s low cross from the right fell to him in the third minute, but scuffed his shot wide from 12 yards before Nakamura, against the run of play, found the bottom corner at the other end on the quarter of an hour.

Yoshito Okubo slid in to spread a loose ball to the right for Yu Kobayashi, who turned and timed his left-footed pass for the playmaker to slot home from just inside the area.

Urawa saw defender Ryota Moriwaki’s cross just evade Takagi minutes later, but was back on level terms in the 28th minute. Moriwaki sprinted down the right and provided a low cross, which took slight deflections off Kawasaki ‘keeper Jung Sung-ryong and then desperate Yuto Takeoka trying to clear on the floor before Lee tapped home.

Reds had a glorious chance gone begging right after the restart as Yuki Muto received the ball unmarked from Lee in the box but shot at the Jung’s foot.

Urawa kept knocking, but Tomoya Ugajin shot wide from outside the box and Muto straight at the ‘keeper, and Kawasaki’s perseverance was rewarded in the 79th minute.

Midfielder Ryota Oshima, back from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, started a counter and passed to Elsinho on the right in the area before his first-time low diagonal cross found Moriya for the winner.

Kawasaki had another chance on a counter, Okubo laid off for Nakamura to his left. Nakamura had a one-on-one with ‘keeper Shusaku Nishikawa, who superbly stood his ground and saved with his left toe.

Muto had a final chance for Urawa two minutes from time but spurned it again, blasting over the bar totally unmarked from 12 yards after Yoshiaki Komai sneaked down the right and set up the forward.

“We were naive with the two goals we conceded,” said Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic. “Kawasaki are a strong team and played well, but I believe my team performed better, we could show great shape in our attack.”

Elsewhere, Sagan was denied a last-minute win and settled for a 1-1 draw at Jubilo Iwata but moved up to third, climbing ahead of Gamba Osaka, who lost 1-0 at home to drop to fourth.

Yokohama F. Marinos lost 1-0 away to FC Tokyo, while Omiya Ardija won 2-1 at home against Vegalta Sendai.

Albirex Niigata defeated Avispa Fukuoka, bottom of the overall standings, 3-0 at home, while first-stage champion Kashima Antlers claimed a 1-0 home win over Shonan Bellmare, who are second from bottom.

Kashiwa Reysol won 3-1 at home against Nagoya Grampus, who are also in the relegation zone, now seven points from safety after Ventforet Kofu won 1-0 at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

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