Kashima, Urawa draw top-of-the-table clash

Defending champions Kashima Antlers were held to a 1-1 draw by Urawa Red Diamonds in a rain-interrupted top-of-the-table battle of the J-League football on Sunday in front of 36,000 fans.

Mitsuo Ogasawara struck home from 20 metres to give a 1-0 lead to Kashima in the 40th minute before the rain and thunder halted the game for more than one hour. Japan international striker Tatsuya Tanaka came to the rescue of the Asian club champions when he scored his first goal of the season from close range in the 82nd minute from a cross from Brazilian Edmilson.

"It was a match deserving the fight between the top team and the second team. It was 50-50 before the interruption, but probably Kashima played a little bit better," said Urawa's German coach Gert Engels. "My players never gave up till the end. I'm satisfied with the result except the goal we lost," he added.

Kashima stay top with 35 points, two points ahead of Urawa and Nagoya Grampus Eight, who drew with Kawasaki Frontale 1-1 on Saturday. They are followed by Gamba Osaka on 32 points, Kashiwa Reysol and Kawasaki on 30 points, and Oita Trinita and Albirex Niigata on 29 points.

Osaka went down to Oita 1-0 and Kashiwa drew with Kyoto Purple Sanga 2-2 on Saturday.

In other games on Sunday, the Brazilian duo of Marcio Richardes and Alessandro scored as Niigata beat Consadole Sapporo 2-1, while Omiya Ardija and Shimizu S-Pulse drew 0-0 in another rain-delayed match.