Japan international forward Seiichiro Maki scored and earned a penalty to help struggling JEF United Chiba earn a vital 2-0 win against Tokyo Verdy on Sunday. Maki nodded in the opener in the 49th minute and Masaki Fukai converted a penalty in the 68th minute, helping Chiba in their battle against the drop.

"All of us, the players, the staff and the supporters, are in this survival battle together. We will do our very best to stay in the first division," said Maki. Chiba are second from bottom on 21 points, five behind Jubilo Iwata with 11 matches to go. The bottom two clubs are relegated.

In the other match on Sunday, Albirex Niigata defeated Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 to move up to 11th spot.

Nagoya lead the way
On Saturday, Nagoya Grampus defeated Gamba Osaka 1-0 to stretch their lead in the standings with their nearest rivals all drawing. Yoshizumi Ogawa scored the only goal with a header in the tenth minute and then Nagoya's tight defence shut out their opponents. Nagoya are on 45 points, three ahead of Kashima Antlers, Urawa Red Diamonds and Oita Trinita.

Defending champions Kashima drew with Kawasaki 1-1, while AFC champions Urawa were held to a goalless draw by Oita.