Kashima Antlers moved back to the top of the J. League standings following a hard-fought 1-0 win over Vissel Kobe last night.
In a full round of midweek fixtures, Kashima took advantage of Urawa's 2-2 draw away at Shimizu S-Pulse to leapfrog the Saitama giants in the standings.
Imposing defender Daiki Iwamasa scored the only goal of the game, powering home a header to register Kashima's 1000th league goal in the process.
The match of the round took place at Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi, and it lived up to expectations as a crowd of 30,851 were thrilled by an absorbing battle between Shimizu S-Pulse and Urawa Reds.
The hosts opened the scoring from the penalty spot after young striker Kazuki Hara was felled in the box, with Hara himself stepping up to send Reds keeper Ryota Tsuzuki the wrong way.
Despite fielding three defensive midfielders, Shimizu struggled desperately to contain Urawa's rapid-fire counter-attacks, and it was no surprise when Brazilian playmaker Robson Ponte levelled the scores through a scrappy goal shortly before half-time.
Urawa's second goal was a more note-worthy effort, as 18-year-old midfielder Naoki Yamada sliced through the S-Pulse defence before curling a superb strike into the far corner of the goal with just sixteen minutes remaining.
With the Reds fans already celebrating another victory, former Urawa striker Yuichiro Nagai missed a golden opportunity to level the score for Shimizu, as shot-stopper Tsuzuki somehow clawed Nagai's goal-bound header out.
Nevertheless the hosts were not to be denied, and from the same passage of play stand-in skipper Arata Kodama produced a coolly taken volley to ensure that both teams left the 2002 FIFA World Cup venue with a share of the spoils.
Elsewhere a crowd of 28,317 was on hand at Nissan Stadium to see Yokohama F. Marinos striker Kazuma Watanabe score the only goal of the game, as Marinos beat fellow fallen giants Jubilo Iwata 1-0.
The biggest crowd of the day saw 34,060 fans pile into Big Swan Stadium in Niigata to watch home team Albirex twice take the lead against struggling JEF United, only to be pegged back in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Elsewhere Kawasaki Frontale hammered Kyoto Sanga 4-1 at Todoroki Stadium, Nagoya Grampus were held to a scoreless home draw by Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Omiya Ardija slumped to a worrying 3-0 defeat to promoted outfit Montedio Yamagata at Omiya Park, Kashiwa Reysol beat Oita Trinita 2-1 in a battle of the cellar dwellers at Hitachidai, while Gamba Osaka returned to form to beat FC Tokyo 4-2 at Expo '70 Stadium.
The pick of the J2 action saw league leaders Cerezo Osaka beat bottom club Yokohama FC 2-0, while Ventforet Kofu beat fellow high-fliers Shonan Bellmare 1-0 in front of 11,546 fans at Kose Sports Park, with substitute Masaru Matsuhashi coming off the bench to score a late winner.
Vegalta Sendai beat Mito Hollyhock 2-1 in front of 11,261 fans at Miyagi Stadium, and 11,242 fans turned out at the Sapporo Dome to see hosts Consadole triumph 3-2 over Ehime FC.
Of the newly promoted sides, Kataller Toyama are the best placed in eleventh following their latest 3-0 home win over FC Gifu, however Fagiano Okayama and Tochigi SC are struggling in fifteenth and seventeenth place respectively in the eighteen team league.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com
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