Shimizu go top
Shimizu S-Pulse claimed top spot ahead of Kashima Antlers on goal difference after battling to a 1-1 draw with fourth-place Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Hisato Sato fired home his 12th of the season for Hiroshima from close range after 30 minutes following a through ball from Croatian midfielder Mihael Mikic. Shimizu, though, responded in the last minute of the first half as striker Shinji Okazaki headed home.
Yosuke Kashiwagi, Ryota Moriwaki and Tomoaki Makino all had chances for Hiroshima after the break, while Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen and defender Daisuke Ichikawa also threatened for the home side in the closing stages. Shimizu should have extended their winning streak to four games in second half stoppage time, but after collecting Ichikawa's return pass on the edge of the area, substitute Masaki Yamamoto failed to find the target.
"We started the game well, but made it harder by giving away the first goal," said Shimizu manager Kenta Hasegawa. "We responded well to equalise and could have collected three points if we had scored our chances in the second half."
Kashima have two games in hand and can reclaim the lead outright against fifth-placed Albirex Niigata tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Urawa Reds moved up to seventh after recording a 3-2 comeback win over JEF United Chiba. Chiba forward Masaki Fukai struck a surprise opener after just eight minutes at Saitama Stadium, but a curling free-kick from Japan midfielder Yuki Abe pulled the home side level just three minutes later.
Abe, Edmilson, fellow Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte and substitute striker Naohiro Takahara all threatened for the Reds before the home side finally took the lead with 11 minutes remaining as Japan defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka cushioned Ponte's free-kick into the path of Edmilson on the edge of the area and the Brazilian slotted home. Young defender Shunki Takahashi sealed the win with four minutes remaining with the first goal of his career as struggling Chiba stretched their winless streak to 12 games.
In Kashiwa, Jubilo Iwata substitute Sho Naruoka struck with seven minutes remaining to snatch all three points with a 2-1 win against relegation threatened Kashiwa Reysol. Japan striker Ryoichi Maeda netted his league-leading 15th of the season after just 14 minutes to hand Jubilo an early lead, and after Brazilian Franca pulled the home side level three minutes before half-time, Naruoka struck the winner ten minutes after his second half introduction as Jubilo moved up to tenth.
Finally, Montedio Yamagata were held to a goalless draw at home to basement side Oita Trinita, while Vissel Kobe rallied to secure a 1-1 draw against Kyoto Sanga.