Defending champions Kashima Antlers today saw off struggling Shonan Bellmare 1-0 to reduce Shimizu S-Pulse's lead at the top to one point as the J-League resumed after the FIFA World Cup™.
The only goal came in the ninth minute when midfielder Takuya Nozawa fired home from distance off a pass by Brazilian forward Marquinhos. Kashima stood with seven wins, three draws and two defeats for 24 points, only one point behind Shimizu.
Nagoya Grampus are third on 22 points, Kawasaki Frontale are on 21 points and former Asian club champions Urawa Red Diamonds have 20 points. Former Asian champions Gamba Osaka were held to a 1-1 draw by Kyoto Sanga as Shoki Hirai's opener in the 47th minute was cancelled out by Makoto Kakuda in the 62nd minute.
Kawasaki, whose FIFA World Cup heroes goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and North Korean striker Jong Tae-Se have moved to Europe, drew with Omiya Ardija 0-0. Sanfrecce Hiroshima crashed to a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Cerezo Osaka.