Urawa regain J-League lead
© AFP

Brazilian midfielder Ponte inspired a 3-1 win over Jubilo Iwata on Saturday that saw Urawa Red Diamonds regain the J-League lead.

Iwata forward Ryoichi Maeda headed home in the 32nd minute, but the referee ruled it out for a foul. Maeda later sent a nice pass for Japanese-born Briton Robert Cullen's opening goal in the 42nd minute, but Urawa swiftly equalised.

Japan international striker Naohiro Takahara's shot was saved by Iwata goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, but Ponte fired a sizzler on the rebound to restore parity shortly before the break.

Then, in the 57th minute, Ponte sent the ball to Takahara, who in turn produced the decisive pass for Tadaaki Hirakawa's first goal in two years. Takahara himself added a third in injury time.

"I received a nice ball, I just needed to hit it. I'm glad I was able to score a goal to live up to the expectation of Urawa supporters," said Hirakawa. "Although we regained the lead in the standings, we have more games to go. We will try to do our best to win all of the remaining games. We will fight match by match."

Asian club champions Urawa now have 12 wins, four draws and six defeats and lie one point ahead of Nagoya Grampus and two points above defending champions Kashima Antlers. Nagoya defeated Kashima 2-1 with Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen scoring the decider in the 60th minute.

In other games, Japan international Yoshito Okubo struck an injury time equaliser as Vissel Kobe drew with Gamba Osaka 1-1, while Atsushi Yanagisawa's solitary strike sealed a 1-0 win for Kyoto Purple Sanga over Albirex Niigata. Shimizu S-Pulse also won, beating Kashiwa Reysol 3-2, and Tokyo Verdy edged their derby against FC Tokyo 2-1.