The league’s 30th round saw the gap at the top of the table narrow even further as the battle to escape relegation intensified for several clubs.
Vegalta Sendai 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol
Kashiwa Reysol played the early game of the round and left Yurtec Stadium with a narrow 2-1 win against Vegalta Sendai. In the second minute of additional time, Leandro was given the space to shoot to the near side following a lofted free kick into the box. His game-winner kept Reysol in mathematical contention for the J.League title and within reach of an AFC Champions League berth.
Vissel Kobe 2-1 Omiya Ardija
Omiya Ardija traveled to Kobe in their run to stave off relegation, facing Vissel Kobe at Noevir Stadium. Carlinhos’s opening goal for the away side, however, was canceled out by Jung Woo-Young’s fabulous curling free kick just eight minutes later. Veteran striker Marquinhos then sent home fans into rapture when he finished off a counter attack, despite Takashi Kitano’s attempts to parry the ball away.
Sagan Tosu 2-0 Albirex Niigata
A disappointing home loss dealt the Kyushu side a severe blow to their title chances. Poor work at the back from Sagan allowed Hiroshi Ibusuki to score shortly before halftime, while veteran striker Tatsuya Tanaka sealed the win in the 72nd minute in a cagey match that saw 35 free kicks between the two sides. Sagan’s Koki Kiyotake came close late in the second half with a driving free kick that rattled the crossbar.
Kashima Antlers 1-1 Urawa Reds
League leaders Reds scraped by to earn a valuable point in their draw with the third place hosts. The game started with Antlers’ Shuto Yamamoto bringing Shinzo Koroki down in the penalty area, however Marcio Richardes failed to beat Hitoshi Sogahata from the resulting spot kick. The momentum then shifted heavily in favour of Kashima, which resulted in Caio scoring a curling shot from the edge of the box to put the leaders in front in the first half. As Urawa continued to struggle against the pressure of Kashima’s attack, they managed to salvage a result when substitute Tadanari Lee pounced on a rebound.
Gamba Osaka 2-1 FC Tokyo
Gamba Osaka gave their home fans something to cheer about as they drew within three points of first place. Yoshinori Muto threatened early for FC Tokyo, but Kotaro Omori broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute with a low shot from distance that was just out of Hitoshi Shiota’s reach. Gamba didn’t wait much longer for their second, with Yasuhito Endo scoring from a free kick at a very tight angle just six minutes later. Substitute Riku Matsuda gave FC Tokyo a glimmer of hope with a 66th-minute header, but the capital city side were unable to cope with Gamba’s control of the second half.
Tokushima Vortis 0-2 Nagoya Grampus
The story of Tokushima Vortis’s first-ever top flight season continued to sour as they conceded two second half goals without reply. Ryota Tanabe scored the opener after Marcus Tulio Tanaka won the ball in the attacking half, with Danilson scoring within four minutes later with an unstoppable free kick. Vortis, who have guaranteed relegation to the J2, managed just four shots throughout the game.
Yokohama F. Marinos 0-0 Cerezo Osaka
Foul-happy Cerezo were unable to break a scoreless deadlock at Nissan Stadium, with a draw not enough to pull the star-studded side out of the relegation zone. Despite having conceded a league-fewest 26 goals, Marinos slumped to 10th in the table.
Ventforet Kofu 2-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Renato’s goal in the 16th minute wasn’t enough for ACL challengers Frontale after Takuma Abe and Sho Sasaki rallied the home side to victory with goals in the 27th and 81st minutes.
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Naoki Ishihara and Hisato Sato were both stars in rainy Shizuoka, with the former providing a first half brace for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a welcome away win. Hisato Sato completed the scoring for the away side shortly after the hour, recording double-digit goals in a remarkable 11th consecutive season . Toshiyuki Takagi managed to lighten the mood of the home side with an 80th-minute consolation goal.