Three in a row for Antlers
Kashima Antlers became the first team in J.League history to win the championship in three successive seasons today after securing a 1-0 win rivals Urawa Reds.
The Antlers needed to win to be certain of claiming the title and they did just that as Shinzo Koroki headed home in the 68th minute to secure all three points. The win means Oswaldo Oliveira's side finished the season with 66 points, two clear of Kawasaki Frontale, whose 3-2 win at Kashiwa Reysol was not enough to overhaul Kashima.
Frontale knew that nothing less than three points would do if they were to maintain their hope of winning a maiden J.League title. They had made the ideal start against Kashiwa as they raced into a dominant lead with three goals in 10 minutes.
First, Juninho converted a penalty on the half hour mark before North Korean striker Jong Tae-se and Kengo Nakamura added further goals in the 38th and 40th minutes respectively. Franca reduced the deficit in the 70th minute before the Brazilian grabbed a second 10 minutes from time to ensure a nervy finish.
However, it counted for nothing in the end, with Kashima's win meaning they had to settle for second place. Gamba Osaka finished third as they rounded off their season with a 2-0 win over relegated JEF United Chiba with AFC Player of the Year Yasuhito Endo grabbing both goals.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima wrapped up fourth place with an emphatic 4-1 win over Kyoto Sanga while FC Tokyo took fifth following a 1-1 draw at Albirex Niigata. In other games, Montedio Yamagata drew goalless with Yokohama F Marinos while the games between Vissel Kobe and Jubilo Iwata and Oita Trinita against Omiya Ardiha ended in 1-1 draws.