J-League leaders Kashima stumble

J-League leaders and defending champions Kashima Antlers suffered a major setback to their title bid on Sunday, crashing to a shock 3-2 defeat to FC Tokyo. With four games left in the season, Kashima have 53 points, one point ahead of Nagoya Grampus, followed by Kawasaki Frontale and Oita Trinita on 51 points, with Urawa Red Diamonds on 50 points.

FC Tokyo took the lead in the 56th minute when Brazilian forward Cabore fired home. Japan international striker Shinzo Koroki levelled the score three minutes later, but Yuto Nagatomo and Yohei Otake put Tokyo two goals clear late in the game before Yuzo Tashiro pulled one back. "Both teams created many chances," Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira said. "FC Tokyo controlled the midfield very well and it resulted in this score."

Tokyo coach Hiroshi Jofuku said: "We lost two games in a row and we almost lost the intention to remain among the top teams, but we came into the game with a strong intention not to give up. We scored three goals against such a strong team like Kashima. It give us strong motivation to do well further after beating the champions."

Urawa, who failed in their bid to defend the AFC Champions League title this week, losing to Gamba Osaka in the semi-finals, kept their title hopes alive with a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata, thanks to a Hajime Hosogai strike. "Everybody was under pressure but my players refreshed themselves really well after losing to Osaka," Urawa's German coach Gert Engels said. "It was not an easy game physically after playing our 100 percent on Wednesday, but we recovered very well."

In other games, Osaka lost to Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1, Omiya Ardija defeated JEF United Chiba 2-1, and Kawasaki Frontale beat second-division-bound Consadole Sapporo 3-1.