Antlers win title in dramatic final
Kashima Antlers clinched the J-League title on a dramatic final day of the season on Saturday as defending champions Urawa Red Diamonds suffered a shock defeat.
Kashima, who beat the Reds 1-0 last week to narrow the gap to just one point, overwhelmed Shimizu S-Pulse 3-0 in their concluding match at the Kashima Studium for their ninth consecutive win, keeping their J-League title hopes alive.
Meanwhile at the Nissan Studium, Shingo Nejime of Yokohama FC,
who were bottom of the standings without a win since May, netted in
the 17th minute to pile the pressure on Uwara, the recently-crowned
Shinji Ono and his team-mates tried desperately to find an equaliser but to no avail against a resolute Yokohama defence, allowing Kashima to pocket their fifth championship.
Coming from behind, Kashima overtook Urawa at the top of the
18-team division and ended the season on 72 points from 34 matches,
while the Reds finished up with 70 after leading the league for
much of the season.
"We owe this victory to a lot of fans gathering here," said Mitsuo Ogasawara, the Antlers forward who secured a penalty kick in the 20th minute to score the game's opener.
Antlers midfielder Masashi Motoyama netted in the 48th minute, followed by Brazilian striker Marquinhos, who added an insurance goal in the 58th minute.
Kashima's latest prize followed their top flight titles in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001.