Kashiwa leave it late, Gamba hit five

Substitute forward Hideaki Kitajima netted a quick-fire late brace to give Kashiwa Reysol a vital 3-1 victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima as his side maintained their lead in the J.League today.  Kitajima, who replaced Junya Tanaka in the 54th minute, scored his first from a cross from Brazilian midfielder Jorge Wagner in the 82nd minute to put his side 2-1 up. 

He added another with three minutes left on the clock to seal a hard-earned win after the league-leaders had trailed, as the season approaches its climax. Tadanari Lee, the hero of Japan's victory in the Asian Cup in January, opened the scoring for Hiroshima in the 57th minute, before Wagner drew even with a sizzling shot in the 68th.

"We lost a goal early in the second-half, but Kitajima and (Akimi) Barada played really well and gained the momentum. That allowed us to play our own game," said Kashiwa's Brazilian coach Nelsinho. "We improved the quality of our attacks and created several chances. We were able to finish off with three points from the win, points we really needed to get."

Kashiwa have 62 points, a two-point lead over Gamba Osaka. Defending champions Nagoya Grampus are on 59 points, Yokohama Marinos on 52 points and Vegalta Sendai on 51, with four more games remaining in the season.

Gamba hammered Montedio Yamagata 5-0, Nagoya defeated Omiya Ardija 3-2 with the international trio of Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Keiji Tamada and Joshua Kennedy scoring. Former Asian club champions Urawa Red Diamonds gained their first win in nine games when they defeated Yokohama Marinos 2-1. In other games, Kashima Antlers drew with Vissel Kobe 1-1. Vegalta and Kawasaki Frontale played out a goalless draw.