The leadership of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League continues changing hands, as Kashima Antlers overpowered Montedio Yamagata 3-0 on Saturday to reprise first place in second stage standings.
Masatada Ishii’s men took back the initiative at the top after it had temporarily gone to Kashiwa Reysol, the J.League’s most successful outfit producing a resolute display to see off plucky Montedio.
The struggling visitors acquitted themselves well overall but that was ultimately not enough to prevent Antlers’ comprehensive scoreline, Shoma Doi bursting through a crowd of bodies to lay on Mu Kanazaki’s opener in the 40th minute.
Doi also started the move which led to Caio doubling the hosts’ lead, before his replacement, Shuhei Akasaki, picked out Yasushi Endo for the latter to fire in a right-footed finish outside the box to extend the side’s perfect start under Ishii.
First stage winners Urawa Reds beat Vegalta Sendai 3-1 to go on their own run of three wins in a row, suggesting the recovery from their mini-slump in July is in full swing.
Freshly-frocked Japan international Yuki Muto was at the heart of his team’s win, with the forward ensuring Samurai Blue boss Vahid Halilhodzic cannot ignore him ahead of key 2018 World Cup qualifiers in September.
The 26-year-old put the Reds back into the lead after Vegalta’s Ryang Yong Gi cancelled out Yosuke Kashiwagi’s opener before then delivering a precise corner on to the head of Zlatan Ljubijankic, who netted to make safe the result.
At Expo ‘70 Commemorative Stadium, Patric netted the solitary goal of Gamba Osaka’s clash with Shimizu S-Pulse to get the Japanese champions back to winning ways, though Kenta Hasegawa’s side still lie seven points off the summit.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima likewise bounced back from consecutive defeats with a 2-0 win at Albirex Niigata, Tsukasa Shiotani firing in the opener after an hour following an excellent team build-up, before Kazuyuki Morisaki tidily tucked home the clincher.
Meanwhile, FC Tokyo failed to build on last week’s victory over Gamba when they were held 0-0 at Nagoya Grampus.
Both sides’ failure to break down each other allowed Shonan Bellmare to leapfrog them in the standings with their 2-1 comeback win against Kawasaki Frontale, despite Yoshito Okubo netting in the first minute.
Sagan Tosu were unable to defend their lead over Yokohama F.Marinos, losing 2-1 even though Hiroyuki Taniguchi headed them ahead.
Sho Ito responded for F.Marinos when he curled in a long-range effort in the second period, before Fabio thumped in from Shunsuke Nakamura’s corner to seal the comeback and hand Erick Mombaerts’ men a third win in a row.
Finally, Bare helped Ventforet Kofu defeat Vissel Kobe 1-0 in the earliest kick-off of the day, leaving Nelsinho’s side struggling for form ahead of their impending Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final clashes against Reysol.