OSAKA – The Kashima Antlers moved to the top of the J. League first division on Sunday with a 1-0 win at Cerezo Osaka thanks to Tomoya Inukai’s sixth-minute header.
The Antlers moved two points clear of FC Tokyo, which lost 2-1 on Saturday at relegation-threatened Sagan Tosu.
Inukai’s goal came after Koki Machida had backpedaled to get underneath a Ryota Nagaki corner kick at the far side of the penalty area, heading the ball back into the box.
The hosts had plenty of chances but succumbed to poor finishing, while Antlers ‘keeper Kwoun Sun-tae also played a role in keeping a clean sheet, punching away a header from midfield dynamo Souza and then beating the Brazilian to the rebound.
“It was a hard game, but we got through it as a team,” Inukai said after the win at Yanmar Stadium Nagai.
“For most of the entire 90 minutes it was a battle, but we were shouting and encouraging each other to hang on to the lead and get the win.”
Later, Asian Champions League semifinalists Urawa Reds came from a goal down at home to beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1 in a battle between two teams trying to avoid slipping toward the drop zone. The win left Reds with 35 points, four clear of the relegation zone and leading S-Pulse on goal difference.
In Sunday’s night match, two-time defending champion Kawasaki Frontale hammered host Shonan Bellmare 5-0 in their Kanagawa derby match. The win moved Frontale up to fourth on 47 points.