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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Gral fires in pair as Jubilo rolls on

IWATA, Shizuoka Pref. (Kyodo) Brazilian striker Rodrigo Gral helped himself to a double as Jubilo Iwata continued their march toward the J. League first-stage title with a 2-0 home win over FC Tokyo on Saturday afternoon.

News photo
Koji Morisaki (8) of Sanfrecce Hiroshima battles Tokyo Verdy midfielder Yoshiyuki Kobayashi for the ball during their J. League first-division match on Saturday at Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium. The match ended in a scoreless draw.

Unbeaten in all competitions so far this season, Iwata preserved its perfect league record to temporarily go eight points clear at the top of the table after six matches.

League-leading scorer Gral picked up a pass from Makoto Tanaka to fire Iwata in front after just six minutes at Yamaha Stadium, and took his tally for the season to seven by sealing the win in the 63rd minute.

The defending champion Yokohama F. Marinos moved into second place, as Tatsuhiko Kubo celebrated his midweek recall to the Japan national team by scoring a goal and setting up another to help Takeshi Okada's men beat visiting Gamba Osaka 2-1.

Meanwhile, four-time champion Kashima Antlers saw their title hopes dealt a hammer blow as they slipped 10 points behind the leaders after going down 1-0 away to Cerezo Osaka.

Kashima had defender Seiji Kaneko sent off late in the first half for his second bookable offense, and former Japan striker Akinori Nishizawa's 56th-minute effort was enough to give Cerezo its first win of the 2004 campaign.

In other games, goals in each half from Ryuji Bando and Mitsutoshi Watada gave Vissel Kobe a 2-0 home win over Kashiwa Reysol, which slumped to their fourth defeat in a row, while Tokyo Verdy played out a goalless draw at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

In a late game Saturday, Shimizu S-Pulse earned a hard-fought 2-2 draw away to Nagoya Grampus Eight courtesy of a 78th-minute equalizer from Brazilian Araujo.

Sunday's games see Urawa Reds welcome Oita Trinita, while JEF United Ichihara plays Albirex Niigata.

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