Urawa Reds secured a potentially-decisive 1-0 win away at Kashima Antlers in the first leg of the 2016 J.League Championship final on Tuesday.
Yuki Abe fired home the winner from the penalty spot after Shinzo Koroki had gone down in the box under Daigo Nishi’s challenge at Kashima Stadium.
Clear-cut chances proved few and far between as the Reds came charging out the blocks but Yuki Muto had an easy chance easily saved, while Shusaku Nishikawa had to deny Yasushi Endo one on one.
The result ensures Mihailo Petrovic’s men enjoy a distinct advantage headed into Saturday’s second leg of the final at Saitama Stadium.
Reds will be crowned Japanese champions for the first time since 2006 even if they lose 1-0.