Sendai defeat displaces Nagoya

Naoki Sugai scored the only goal as Vegalta Sendai knocked defending champions Nagoya Grampus off the top of the table with a 1-0 win in Japan's J.League.

The midfielder scored from a corner in the 17th minute, and from then on Sendai's tight defence kept Nagoya attacks at bay. "I'm very happy to have a win. That's all I can say. Nagoya have some tall players, but we managed to defend against them," said Sugai.

"We had a stronger will to win. That resulted in today's victory. We haven't given up yet. We are going to fight for moving up in the standings," he added.

As a result of their defeat, Nagoya went down to third place on 43 points, one point behind Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol. They are followed by Yokohama Marinos on 43 points with a lower goal differential than Nagoya, seven-time former champions Kashima Antlers on 34 points, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima on 32 points.

Brazilian striker Rafinha scored a hat-trick - bringing him to seven goals in six games since he joined at the end of last month - to lead Gamba Osaka to a 6-3 win over Kawasaki Frontale.

Kashiwa struggled to beat bottom-placed Avispa Fukuoka 3-2, while Yokohama beat Jubilo Iwata 1-0 thanks to Yuji Ono's late goal, and Kashima defeated Hiroshima 2-0.

Elsewhere, Ryuji Bando also scored a hat-trick, but his side, Cerezo Osaka, were held to a 3-3 draw by Shimizu S-Pulse as former Japan international striker Naohiro Takahara equalised with one minute left on the clock.

Ventforet Kofu upset former Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds 3-2, Vissel Kobe beat Albirex Niigata 2-1, and Omiya Ardija drew with Montedio Yamagata 1-1.