SENDAI – Naoki Ishihara struck on either side of halftime as Vegalta Sendai defeated Sagan Tosu 4-1 to collect a crucial three points in the J. League survival race Sunday.
In the only top-flight game of the day, Ishihara opened the scoring in the 11th minute before Gakuto Notsuda doubled the lead for the home side shortly past the half-hour.
Hirotaka Mita made it 3-0 in the 54th and Ishihara capped his brace 20 minutes later. Tosu pulled one back in stoppage time through Victor Ibarbo, but it hardly served as consolation for its second successive defeat.
The win lifted 12th-place Sendai to 32 points — 12 points clear of the relegation zone with nine games to go in the season. Sagan, who have conceded a combined seven goals in their last two games, stand ninth on 34 points.
Vegalta coach Susumu Watanabe said as crucial as Sunday’s victory was, he could not let up just yet.
“Before kickoff, we talked about how important this game was so it’s massive to be able to take all three points here,” Watanabe said.
“But while this win is huge, we have to make sure to build on this to keep climbing up the table.”