OSAKA – Cerezo Osaka defeated Vissel Kobe 1-0 behind Kota Fujimoto’s first-half strike to rise to the top of Group B in the Levain Cup on Wednesday.
Kobe, with a game in hand, are in second on 12 points, two points behind Cerezo in the league cup group phase which has one more round of games next week.
Yokohama F. Marinos are placed third another three points back after beating Sagan Tosu 2-1 away, while fifth-place Ventforet Kofu won 2-0 over Albirex in Niigata.
In Group A, Vegalta Sendai edged Consadole Sapporo 2-1 away to move into the lead on 13 points, one point ahead of FC Tokyo who beat Reysol 1-0 in Kashiwa. Tokyo have a game in hand.
Fifth-place Omiya Ardija won 4-0 at home to Shimizu S-Pulse, who have lost all five of their games.
The two group winners qualify automatically for the quarterfinals. The second- and third-place teams in each pool head to a home-and-away playoff for a spot in the last eight, where they will be joined by the four J. League clubs in the Asian Champions League — Kashima Antlers, Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka.