• Kyodo

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Kunimitsu Sekiguchi struck early and Ryoma Kida added a second in injury time Saturday as demotion-threatened Vegalta Sendai earned a vital 2-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J. League top flight.

The three points lifted Makoto Teguramori’s men off the bottom of the table to second-last, where they remain in grave danger of the drop with five rounds left.

Despite dominating possession, Hiroshima managed only four shots on target to the hosts’ six.

Veteran midfielder Sekiguchi netted from the edge of the box in the 10th minute at Yurtec Stadium, finishing an attacking movement that started with a throw-in from the right.

Kida sealed Sendai’s first league win in five matches when he danced around a defender and fired home from the right of the area in the 94th minute.

The J. League first division is set to return to its usual 18 clubs next season, having swelled to 20 teams after suspending relegation to lessen the financial blow to clubs from the coronavirus pandemic.

To that end, the bottom four sides from the expanded J1 will automatically drop to the second division at the end of the season, with two J2 clubs promoted.

In other J1 action, Yokohama FC suffered a setback in their survival bid, falling back to the bottom of the standings with a 2-1 loss away to Shonan Bellmare, who prevailed on an 89th-minute winner from Naoki Yamada.

Kashima Antlers beat FC Tokyo 2-1 away, with Ayase Ueda netting the winner midway through the second half, while Gamba Osaka beat Sagan Tosu 1-0 at home, and Tokushima Vortis drew 1-1 at home against Oita Trinita.

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