• Kyodo

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Leo Ceara bagged a hat trick as Yokohama F. Marinos thumped Vegalta Sendai 5-0 on Saturday in the J. League first division, moving four points behind leader Kawasaki Frontale.

Despite seeing manager Ange Postecoglou leave for Celtic to be replaced by fellow Australian Kevin Muscat, F. Marinos extended their unbeaten run to 12 games with Leo Ceara continuing his fine form following a brace in their last game.

Elber’s close-range effort and Leo Ceara’s drive from distance both drew saves from Vegalta’s keeper Jakub Slowik before the home side went ahead in the 26th minute, Leo Ceara leaping above the Polish keeper and defender Hisashi Appiah Taiwah to head into an empty net following a hopeful ball into the box.

Daizen Maeda blazed over with just the keeper to beat, and Takuya Wada struck the post from a distance as the hosts settled for a single goal before the break at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium, but Marinos continued to dominate and three quick-fire goals put the game to bed.

Leo Ceara smashed inside the far post from the edge of the box in the 62nd minute before their high-pressing forced Vegalta into an error five minutes later near the byline, leaving Marcos Junior to tap in Leo Ceara’s pass across the face of the goal.

Marcos Junior returned the favor three minutes later as Leo Ceara completed his hat trick, running into acres of space after easily barging off Vegalta defender Naoya Fukumori to win a header near the halfway line to launch a two-man counter.

“I stayed brave and just threw myself for the first goal, I’m glad with my second as I hit a great effort. The third was a good combination with Marcos,” Leo Ceara said.

Substitute Jun Amano put the icing on the cake with the last action of the match as he tapped in a cutback, leaving Vegalta without a win in nine games and mired in the relegation zone.

At Edion Stadium, Leandro Damiao scored an equalizer as Kawasaki, who lost Tokyo Olympians Kaoru Mitoma and Ao Tanaka to European clubs over the summer, salvaged a 1-1 away draw against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Third-place Sagan Tosu won 3-1 away to Kashiwa Reysol through a Tomoya Koyamatsu double. New signing Yoshinori Muto made an immediate impact for fourth-place Vissel Kobe, coming on at halftime and setting up the winner in their 1-0 home win over Kashima Antlers.

Urawa Reds won 1-0 away to Tokushima Vortis, while Consadole Sapporo drew 1-1 at Oita Trinita. FC Tokyo was held 0-0 at Gamba Osaka.

Thiago scored a brace as Cerezo Osaka beat Yokohama FC 3-1, while Shonan Bellmare and Shimizu S-Pulse drew 1-1.

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