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Monday, Nov. 24, 2003

Ogasawara's goal keeps Antlers in hunt for title

KASHIMA (Kyodo) Japan midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara struck a last-minute winner to keep Kashima Antlers in contention for the second-stage title after a 2-1 victory over 10-man Kashiwa Reysol in the J. League on Sunday.

The win lifted Kashima, chasing its first title since 2001, into second place in the table, two points behind archrival Jubilo Iwata with one match of the season remaining.

Jubilo, which beat Gamba Osaka 2-1 on Saturday, has 26 points with Kashima on 24, followed by Yokohama F. Marinos and JEF United Ichihara on 23.

Ichihara needed a 64th minute equalizer from South Korean striker Choi Yong Soo to hold struggling Oita Trinita 1-1 in Sunday's other match.

Jubilo faces a tough trip to Yokohama on the final day of the season, Kashima visits Urawa Reds while Ichihara is away to Tokyo Verdy.

In Kashima, Tomoyuki Hirase fired the home side in front after 14 minutes in the first half.

Shinya Tanoue put Kashiwa on level terms with a well taken finish in the 56th minute only to turn from hero to villain when he was sent off in the 74th minute for his second bookable offense.

Kashima pushed for a winner and it came with seconds of normal time remaining as Ogasawara capitalized on some poor defending from Masayuki Ochihai and slammed the ball past goalkeeper Kenta Shimizu.

In Chiba Prefecture, Takayuki Yoshida gave Oita a surprise lead when he drilled home from close range on 34 minutes but Ichihara fought back and after rattling the woodwork grabbed a deservedly drew level.

Japan Under-22 midfielder Yuki Abe unleashed a fierce shot which Oita goalkeeper Hayato Okanaka could only parry and Choi pounced to bury the ball in the bottom right-hand corner for his 17th goal of the season.

A win for Oita would have guaranteed it first division soccer next season and sent Vegalta Sendai and Kyoto Purple Sanga down.

Instead, Oita now needs at least a draw against Sendai next week to ensure survival in the top flight.

Albirex promoted

NIIGATA (Kyodo) Striker Yusaku Ueno struck a first-half winner as Albirex Niigata defeated Omiya Ardija 1-0 to secure promotion to the J. League first division in the final game of the season on Sunday.

News photo
Albirex Niigata players celebrate after winning promotion to J. League Division One in Niigata after beating Omiya Ardija in the final game of the season.

Ueno fired home after 11 minutes to the delight of an expectant crowd of more than 42,000 at Niigata Stadium Big Swan and the goal proved to be enough to guarantee his side a place in Japan's top flight for the first time.

Niigata finished as champion with 88 points from 44 games with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, already promoted after its 2-1 win over Sagan Tosu last week, taking second spot on 86.

A late winner from Kazuki Ganaha gave Kawasaki Frontale a 2-1 win over Hiroshima on Sunday but the result was only good enough for a third-place finish another point back.



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