Urawa Reds continued their strong finish to the regular MEIJI YASUDA J1 League season by whipping Gamba Osaka 4-0 on Saturday.
Despite already sealing their place in the title-deciding J.League Championship, Mihailo Petrovic is keen to see his men to the mini-tournament without letting up steam.
And his men responded to those demands spectacularly as they cruised past Gamba at Saitama Stadium, Toshiyuki Takagi netting the opener in the sixth minute.
The Reds then waited till the second half before Yuki Muto netted the second and Tomoya Ugajin plus Zlatan Ljubijankic put the tie out of the reach of hapless Gamba.
Vissel Kobe are now right behind Urawa in the Second Stage standings following a fantastic 3-0 dismantling of Kawasaki Frontale – the latte also already having qualified for the Championship.
Nevertheless, Yahiro Kazama will be concerned with his side’s collapse, as goals from Kazuma Watanabe and a double from Leandro rounded off an excellent result for Nelsinho’s hosts.
First Stage winners Kashima Antlers were similarly sorry as they succumbed 3-1 to Omiya Ardija in front of their fans.
Shigeru Yokotani bagged a brace either side of half-time following Ryo Okui’s opener to send Masatada Ishii’s men plummeting to ninth place.
Formerly in complete disorder, Nagoya Grampus put together a landslide 5-0 win over fellow relegation-battlers Avispa Fukuoka to make it two wins in a row now.
Coach Bosko Gjurovski had Kensuke Nagai to thank after the striker netted a hat-trick between Ha Dae-sung’s opener and Ryusuke Sakai’s final strike of the game.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima fell to a 1-0 home loss following Shoya Nakajima’s 92nd-minute winner as a season to forget nears its end, while Ramon Lopes struck thrice to fire Vegalta Sendai to a 3-2 victory at Sagan Tosu.
Yokohama F.Marinos swept to a convincing 4-0 romp at Ventforet Kofu – an hour after Jay Bothroyd was unable to prevent Jubilo Iwata from slipping to a 2-1 defeat against Albirex Niigata as Ryohei Yamazaki bagged the winner for the visitors in the 89th minute.
Shonan Bellmare rounded off the action by holding Kashiwa Reysol to a 0-0 draw at BMW Stadium.