Urawa close in as Grampus stumble

Japan international striker Naohiro Takahara scored long-awaited goals after his return to Japan, leading Urawa Red Diamonds to a 4-0 win over Kyoto Purple Sanga in the J-League on Saturday. Kyoto's Yutaka Tahara was sent off in the 53rd minute, allowing the Asian club champions to enjoy a second-half onslaught.

Takahara, a former Eintracht Frankfurt player who came back home at the beginning of the season, opened the scoring with a seven-metre right-footer. He struck home again from close range in the 75th minute after Brazilian-born Japanese international defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka's two headers in the middle of the second half.

"Usually, when you were reduced to ten men, you will become defensive, but it was really good that we managed to score soon afterwards," said Urawa's German coach Gert Engels. "We took the second goal quickly.

"I thought we would win when we led 2-0. Maybe my players couldn't play their usual game, but they concentrated really well when the time was tough. I think that was the key to the win. It would have been a very different game if we had been down 1-0 at half time," added the German.

Urawa have now taken 16 points from eight games, and sit three points behind leaders Nagoya Grampus Eight. Defending champions Kashima Antlers are above Urawa on goal difference, with FC Tokyo on 14, Yokohama Marinos on 13 and Gamba Osaka on 12 points.

Nagoya suffered their first defeat of the season, crashing 2-0 to Tokyo Verdy, while Kashima face Omiya Ardija on Sunday. FC Tokyo lost 1-0 to Shimizu S-Pulse, and Yokohama went down to Oita Trinita by the same scoreline.

In other games, Kawasaki Frontale came back from two goals down to beat Kashiwa Reysol 3-2, Albirex Niigata defeated Consadole Sapporo 1-0, and Jubilo Iwata downed winless JEF United 2-1.