Antlers clinch hard-fought victory
A winner from Daiki Iwamasa enabled J.League leaders Kashima Antlers to come from behind to edge out Oita Trinita 2-1, thus remaining seven points clear of Albirex Niigata and Urawa Red Diamonds with a game in hand.
Oita went in front in the 55th minute when midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake collected Teppei Nishiyama's pass and beat Antlers goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata.
But the hosts equalised seven minutes later when midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara volleyed home Takuya Nozawa's cross with his right foot from the left of the box. Kashima then sealed the points in the 73rd minute when Iwamasa pounced on a rebound from close range after Nozawa had been denied.
In Niigata, Albirex midfielder Toshihiro Matsushita scored twice to give the hosts a 2-1 win over ten-man Nagoya Grampus.
Niigata took an early lead through Matsushita's sixth-minute goal and Nagoya midfielder Magnum was then sent off midway through the opening period for a second bookable offence. Matsushita made it 2-0 two minutes before the break and, although Nagoya pulled a goal back through substitute midfielder Keita Sugimoto late on, it was not enough to prevent them slipping to defeat.
Gamba Osaka bounced back from their shock AFC Asian Champions League exit in midweek with a 2-1 win at Yokohama F. Marinos.
Gamba scored twice in the space of three minutes early in the second half through Japan internationals Yasuhito Endo and Hideo Hashimoto. Marinos went ahead in the 20th minute when midfielder Naoki Matsuda applied the finishing touch to Kenta Kano's header inside the box.
Gamba levelled in the 51st minute when Endo fired past the advancing Hiroki Iikura after collecting a clearance on the edge of the box. The visitors then took the upper hand two minutes later when Iikura pushed Leandro's effort into the path of Hashimoto and he slotted home.
"I knew this would be a hard game for us after losing an important game in a tough schedule," Gamba boss Akira Nishino said. "Our players controlled the game well and we fixed our problems from the ACL. The three points today mean a lot to us."
"The loss in the ACL was regrettable for all of us but today's win will help improve the mood and situation of our team," Endo added. "Since the ACL's gone, we can only look at winning the league now and we cannot afford to drop any more points."
In Yamagata, Korea DPR striker Jong Tae-se's late strike helped Kawasaki Frontale defeat Montedio Yamagata 1-0.
The game appeared to be heading for a stalemate until two minutes from time, when substitute Jong latched onto Juninho's pass and fired home the winner.