Kashima Antlers saw their unbeaten streak under Go Oiwa end with a 3-1 loss at Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday, with the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League leaders disintegrating in the second half.
Oiwa has enjoyed unparalleled success since taking over Masatada Ishii in May, but saw his run brought to a grinding halt when Daigo Nishi put the ball past Hitoshi Sogahata for Frontale’s opener.
It got worse for the visitors a minute later when Hiroyuki Abe doubled the lead and it was all downhill from there, with Akihiro Ienaga making it three to the good for the Todoroki Stadium residents and rendering Yuma Suzuki’s late consolation goal ineffectual.
Yokohama F. Marinos capitalised on Antlers’ loss and Cerezo Osaka not playing this weekend to close on the top two with a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu sealed by Hugo Vieira’s early winner.
The pressure increases at the summit after fifth-placed Kashiwa Reysol issued a statement of their intents by smashing four past Shimuzu S-Pulse - the visitors inspired by Cristiano’s brace to seal a 4-1 win at IAI Stadium.
It was yet another setback for Lukas Podolski’s Vissel Kobe on Saturday as they lost 1-0 at FC Tokyo from Peter Utaka’s 88th-minute winner.
Jay Bothroyd was also unable to fire Consadole Sapporo to victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Ventforet Kofu to leave both sides level in the standings.
Jubilo Iwata beat Gamba Osaka 2-0 to leapfrog their rivals in the table and the chase for AFC Champions League qualification through Kentaro Oi and Adailton strikes in each half.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima remain mired in the relegation with their latest loss, a 1-0 result at Vegalta Sendai, with Omiya Ardija losers by the same scoreline in their relegation six-pointer against Omiya Ardija.