There is little left standing in the way of Urawa Reds being crowned MEIJI YASUDA J1 League first stage winners now, after they romped to a 6-1 victory at Sagan Tosu on Saturday.
Following the draws of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Gamba Osaka, the league leaders took full advantage in their bid to secure mid-season honours when they blitzed their hosts in the second half.
Yutaka Yoshida’s sending off in the 22nd minute looked ominous for Sagan, but it was actually Hitoshi Morishita’s men who took the lead when Kota Mizunuma rifled in a spectacular free-kick.
The Reds came out in the second period breathing fire however, as Yuki Muto and Yosuke Kashiwagi put them ahead for the first time on the night.
It was when Shinzo Koroki bent in a long-range after the hour mark that the match carried the whiff of a rout, and a Tsukasa Umesaki in-between Zlatan Ljubijankic’s 10-minute double ensured the team’s ascension in stunning manner.
Rivals Sanfrecce could not find the breakthrough and drew 0-0 at Shonan Bellmare, while Gamba finished their match with 10 men after Lins’ red card and had to count on Patric’s 95th minute equaliser to scrape a 1-1 result against high-flying Yokohoma F.Marinos.
FC Tokyo capitalised on the champions dropping points to move into third following a 2-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol, Hirotaka Mita opening the scoring before Yoshinori Muto’s ninth goal of the season cancelled out Leandro’s temporary equaliser.
The result drops Reysol into the relegation battle and level on 13 points with Shimizu S-Pulse, who picked up only their third win of the campaign with an excellent 5-2 victory against Kawasaki Frontale nevertheless.
Peter Utaka and Hideki Ishige each netted braces in a rampant performance for the hosts, who moved off the bottom of the table as a result.
Previous relegation favourites Ventforet Kofu have been on a roll, and extended their winning run to three games in a row by securing a potentially crucial 2-0 win at Albirex Niigata to boost their survival chances.
Matsumoto Yamaga actually took the lead at Kashima Antlers but their joy was short-lived when Shuhei Akasaki’s brace and a late Caio goal handed the home side a 3-1 win, though a place for Antlers in next season AFC Champions League still looks a long way off.
Vegalta Sendai’s 1-0 result at Vissel Kobe ensured the relegation plot thickens further, but there was little drama in the goalless draw between Nagoya Grampus and Montedio Yamagata.