Kashima two clear in J-League
Defending champions Kashima Antlers took a major step towards retaining their J-League crown Sunday, beating close rivals Oita Trinita 1-0 to establish a two-point lead at the top of the table.
Defender Atsuto Uchida scored the only goal of the game in the 55th minute to take his team to 57 points, two clear of Nagoya Grampus and three ahead of Kawasaki Frontale.
"Although the score was 1-0, we created many chances. If we had scored earlier, it would have been easier for us to play," said Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira. "We must steady ourselves and keep our concentration for the remaining two games."
Oita's Brazilian coach Pericles Raimundo Oliveira Chamusca admitted his side's title challenge had taken a huge hit. "It became difficult to win the title now with this defeat. We have to re-set our goal to finish third and qualify for the Asian Champions League," he said.
Nagoya edged past Kyoto Purple Sanga 3-2 thanks to Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen's penalty five minutes into injury time, while Kawasaki thumped Gamba Osaka 4-0.
Urawa, who had been just one point behind the league leaders going into this weekend's matches, suffered a major blow to their title hopes, losing 2-1 to Shimizu S-Pulse. FC Tokyo drew 1-1 with Vissel Kobe.
In other games, Yokohama Marinos beat JEF United Chiba 3-0, Jubilo Iwata drew with Kashiwa Reysol 3-3, Albirex Niigata shared the points with Omiya Ardija after a 2-2 draw, and Consadole Sapporo against Tokyo Verdy finished 1-1.
Behind the top three, Urawa Red Diamonds sit in fourth on 53 points, followed by Oita and FC Tokyo on 52 points. Each side have just two more games remaining.