Midfielder Takuya Nozawa scored twice and claimed an assist with another goal as defending champions Kashima Antlers claimed a 3-0 win over Vissel Kobe to maintain their lead at the top of the J-League.
Nozawa headed home on a cross from Brazilian Fellype Gabriel to put Kashima one up in the eighth minute, and in the 32nd minute his shot hit the bar before crossing the line following a corner from skipper Mitsuo Ogasawara. Nozawa set up a third goal for Brazilian striker Marquinhos in the 74th minute to complete the scoring.
"I'm glad, because it was important to take three points from a win at home," said Nozawa. "Marquinhos lured their defenders, which allowed me to score the first goal. I was set free for the second goal."
Kashima's tenth win leaves them on 34 points, two points above Nagoya Grampus and four points above Shimizu S-Pulse. They were followed by Cerezo Osaka on 26 points, and Albirex Niigata and Kawasaki Frontale on 25 points each.
Australian international forward Joshua Kennedy helped Nagoya beat Yokohama Marinos 2-0 with his 10th goal of the season, while Shimizu were to play Shonan Bellmare on Sunday. Cerezo Osaka whipped Jubilo Iwata 3-0, and Niigata defeated FC Tokyo 2-1. Kawasaki will play Vegalta Sendai on Sunday. In other action, Brazilian forward Rafael scored the only goal to beat former Asian club champions Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0.