Australian international striker Joshua Kennedy headed home a decider to give Nagoya Grampus a 2-1 win over Yokohama Marinos for the interim lead in the J.League standings on Saturday. The chance came in the 83rd minute when Takahiro Masukawa returned the ball off a free kick for Kennedy's to strike for all three points.
Earlier, former Japan international midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura netted for Yokohama on a free kick to cancel Yoshizumi Ogawa's opener in the 13th minute. "It was a difficult game. Both teams couldn't play their normal game in this heavy rain, but we knew we must win, everybody knew, and we got the important three points for Nagoya," Nagoya's Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic said.
"It was important to win today. We have two more games to go and only three teams have a chance to win the title. We want to do what we want to do and I believe we can do that. We will never give up," he added.
Nagoya took the lead in the standings thanks to a better goal difference while tied on 65 points with Kashiwa Reysol, who will play Shimizu S-Pulse on Sunday. With two more games left in the season, Gamba Osaka kept their hopes alive by drawing with Albirex Niigata 2-2 for 64 points as Shota Kawanishi helped them with a brace in the 77th and 83rd minutes.
Urawa Red Diamonds were held to a goalless draw by Vegalta Sendai to gain one point and move three points clear of the relegation zone on 33 while Ventforet Kofu bowed to Jubilo Iwata 2-1. Avispa Fukuoka and Montedio Yamagata, both already relegated to the second division, clashed with Fukuoka getting out of bottom place with a 5-0 win.
In other games, Shinzo Koroki scored a goal in the last minute as the Kashima Antlers drew with Omiya Ardija 1-1, while Kawasaki Frontale defeated Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2.