Quake-hit Vegalta Sendai continued their unbeaten record with a 1-0 win over Montedio Yamagata today, closing in on the J.League leaders Kashiwa Reysol.
The only goal came in the 53rd minute when midfielder Naoki Sugai converted a rebound after Ryang Yong-Gi's free-kick.
"It's the first time that I scored a goal to win a match. I'm really happy about it," said a jubilant Sugai, who grew up in Yamagata.
Sendai coach Makoto Teguramori said that Sugai's attacking instincts mean he has the potential to score even when he plays a more defensive role.
He said: "We were booed for the first time after the earthquake. It fired my players up. It was a very close, difficult game, but it was a big success that we shut them out"
Sendai now have 15 points from seven games and lie second, trailing Kashiwa by one point, with Yokohama Marinos third on 14 points and Vissel Kobe fourth on 13.
In the only other game today, former Japan international striker Naohiro Takahara scored twice to help Shimizu S-Pulse beat Omiya Ardija 4-1.
Yesterday, Kashiwa drew with defending champions Nagoya Grampus 0-0, Yokohama overwhelmed Ventforet Kofu 4-0, and Kobe defeated Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0.