Doubles help duo close on leaders
Naohiro Takahara scored twice to help Urawa Red Diamonds down Montedio Yamagata 3-2, as they and Albirex Niigata trimmed the advantage of runaway J. League leaders Kashima Antlers to seven points.
Albirex made their move up to second, above the Reds on goal difference, by easing to a 4-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol. Kashima will have the chance to restore their ten-point cushion when they face Kawasaki Frontale tomorrow.
At Yamagata's ND Stadium, Tatsuya Furuhashi converted after 25 minutes, following good work from Katsuyuki Miyazawa, to hand Montedio the lead. Marcus Tulio Tanaka headed against the post 12 minutes later as the Reds responded, before Brazilian striker Edmilson equalised from the penalty spot a minute before the break.
Urawa improved after half-time, largely due to the introduction of Brazilian defender Yoshiya Nishizawa and Brazilian playmaker Robson Ponte, and claimed the lead three minutes into the second half through Takahara.
Montedio, roared on by a season-high crowd, came close to an equaliser through substitute Tomotaka Kitamura before Kohei Miyazaki pulled his side level with 11 minutes remaining, heading Yu Hasegawa's cross past goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki. But with eight minutes remaining, Takahara headed home Tulio's centre to hand the Reds all three points.
"After we went behind 1-0, our players responded well to come back into the game. However, we were not hustling enough when we had to in the first half," said Urawa coach Volker Finke. "We fixed that problem with some tactical changes and showed our spirit more in the second half."
Forward Pedro Junior scored twice to highlight Albirex's 4-0 win in Kashiwa. Yusuke Murakami's eighth-minute own goal sent the visitors on their way, before Marcio Richardes doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time when his deflected shot found the net.
A brilliant individual goal from Pedro Junior doubled the lead three minutes after the break, before the Brazilian's last-minute penalty sealed Albirex's ninth win of the season.
Elsewhere, FC Tokyo moved up to fifth place as goals from Naohiro Ishikawa and Cabore earned them a 2-0 reverse of Vissel Kobe and their third straight win.
Korea Republic defender Lee Jung-Soo struck a stoppage-time equaliser as Kyoto Sanga fought back from 3-1 down to earn a 3-3 draw at Shimizu S-Pulse, while Omiya Ardija were held to a 0-0 draw by Yokohama F. Marinos
Finally, JEF United edged struggling Oita Trinita 2-1.