Midfielder Yasushi Endo scored twice to lift defending champions Kashima Antlers to the top of the table in the J-League standings with a 3-1 win over Montedio Yamagata on Saturday.
Korean international defender Lee Jung-Soo opened the scoring when he jumped for a header on Takuya Nozawa's right corner in the 35th minute. Endo hit a mis-clearance by Tatsuya Ishikawa to make it two up in the 40th minute and then added another with a shot that hit the right post and goalkeeper Kenta Shimizu before going in six minutes after the break.
"Everybody tried his best to win the game and I was able to help with two goals. I'm happy about it," said Endo.
"He has been improving every year," said Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira about Endo's performance. "I'm glad that he took the chance when it was given. I hope he will mature further with a lot more experiences."
Mixed results for challengers
Kashima have now three wins and a draw for 10 points, two points ahead of Shimizu S-Pulse, three points ahead of Yokohama Marinos, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Kyoto Sanga, Urawa Red Diamonds and Kawasaki Frontale.
Shimizu and Kawasaki fought it out to a goalless draw, while Yokohama lost an equaliser in injury time to draw with Vissel Kobe 1-1. Hiroshima play Nagoya Grampus next week.
Yusuke Nakayama scored a decider in injury time to give Kyoto a 3-2 win over Jubilo Iwata, while Brazilian striker Edmilson helped Urawa beat Cerezo Osaka 3-2 with a brace. Shonan Bellmare posted their first win since returning to the first division, beating Albirex Niigata 2-0.