Kashima Antlers surged to the first win under new manager Go Oiwa’s regime in style, with Leandro’s brace sealing a 3-1 MEIJI YASUDA J1 League victory at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
The 2016 Japanese champions had fallen off the pace in recent weeks in the chase for first place, a situation compounded by their AFC Champions League exit last week.
Ishii paid the price and Oiwa’s was promoted in his stead, with the new manager scarcely being able to get off to a better start as Antlers roared into a 3-0 lead at Edion Stadium before half-time.
Atsutaka Nakamura struck the opener before Leandro’s brace by the 43rd minute silenced the Sanfrecce crowd, and even Anderson’s consolation goal could not spark a comeback.
It is a result that puts Antlers six points behind league leaders Kashiwa Reysol who emerged 1-0 victors in their battle with Urawa Reds.
Hiroto Nakagawa’s winner in stoppage-time for the hosts was enough to keep them ahead of the pack and Cerezo Osaka, who are the surprise packages of the season in second.
Cerezo, who only earned promotion back to the top-flight via the J2 League play-offs, swept only two points off the top with a 4-0 win over Albirex Niigata, which in all other scenarios may have turned out to be a relegation battle.
A devastating 20-minute spell towards the end of the game saw Yoon Jong-hwan’s man roar up the standings to sit three points above Gamba Osaka, who succumbed 3-0 at Jubilo Iwata following Kengo Kawamata’s brace.
Elsewhere, a second-half surge by Yokohama F. Marinos was enough for a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale, while Vissel Kobe picked up their first win in three league games in a 2-1 result at Consadole Sapporo.
Yoshito Okubo meanwhile struck twice in FC Tokyo’s 2-0 triumph at Shimizu S-Pulse as Vegalta Sendai swept past Ventforet Kofu 3-0, while Omiya Ardija escaped defeat to Sagan Tosu in a 1-1 draw that leaves the former rooted firmly in the relegation zone.