Soccer / J. League

League-leading Cerezo cruise to fourth straight victory

Kyodo

Cerezo Osaka kept a firm grip on the J. League’s top spot by beating Urawa Reds 4-2 on Saturday for their fourth successive win.

In the day’s only J1 game, Cerezo exploded for all four of their goals in the first half at Yanmar Stadium, with Kenyu Sugimoto scoring twice and Hotaru Yamaguchi and Yusuke Maruhashi chipping in with one each.

Zlatan Ljubijankic and Rafael Silva also struck before halftime for Urawa, which quickly reverted to losing ways after preventing manager Mihailo Petrovic from resigning with a 2-1 home victory against Albirex Niigata on July 9.

Cerezo improved to 41 points from 19 games, four points ahead of the second-place Kashima Antlers. The Reds stayed on 29 points in eighth place.

“I’m just glad we won,” Sugimoto said. “The first goal as well as the second were early, which I think helped the team manage the game.

“But the goals we conceded were kind of a waste, and I should have done a better job of taking chances so I’m not completely happy.”

Sugimoto opened the scoring on six minutes before doubling the lead himself two minutes later. Ljubijankic pulled one back for the visitors after 18 minutes, but Yamaguchi reestablished Cerezo’s two-goal advantage in the 27th minute.

Maruhashi made it 4-1 for the hosts eight minutes later, and while Silva netted just before the intermission, Urawa failed to further close the gap.

Petrovic said his team started off too poorly to stay in the game. It was the Reds’ eighth loss of the season.

“The match barely started and we were already down 2-0. To come back from that and win here is just too difficult,” he said. “We deserved to lose today.”

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