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Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006

Frontale tops Sanga, pulls closer to Reds


Staff writer

KAWASAKI -- The race for the J. League title was blown wide open on Saturday as Kawasaki Frontale beat bottom-of-the-table Kyoto Purple Sanga 2-0 to move within four points of leaders Urawa Reds.

News photo
Jubilo Iwata midfielder Takashi Fukunishi (right) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal in the 52nd minute during the J. League first-division match against Urawa Reds on Saturday at Yamaha Stadium. Jubilo won 3-2. KYODO PHOTO

Goals by Kazuki Ganaha and Magnum gave Frontale three crucial points at Todoroki Stadium as Urawa went down 3-2 away to Jubilo Iwata.

Urawa stays top of the table on 62 points with five games left to play, with Frontale leapfrogging Gamba Osaka to move second on 58.

Gamba is on 56 points and has a chance to reclaim second place and put more pressure on the Reds in its home game against Shimizu S-Pulse on Sunday.

Ganaha's 16th league goal of the season put Kawasaki ahead on 39 minutes after Kengo Nakamura's floated free-kick caused panic in the Kyoto defense and the international striker was on hand to cushion a header over 'keeper Koji Nishimura.

Nakamura nearly doubled the lead for Frontale early in the second half with a curling free-kick that ricocheted off the bar.

An even easier chance to extend the lead was squandered minutes later after a harsh penalty was awarded against Nishimura for running into Juninho, who seemed to fall to the ground before any contact was made.

Juninho picked himself up to take the penalty but sent the ball embarrassingly high and wide of the goal and justice was done.

Unable to double their lead despite a huge amount of possession, Frontale nearly let in Kyoto's Paulinho for the equalizer, but the Brazilian striker skewed the ball wide.

Magnum made sure of the points for Frontale when the striker fired under the body of Nishimura after Nakamura fed him with a delightful through ball.

Kawasaki boss Takashi Sekizuka has continued to insist over the past few weeks the title race is far from over and he maintained that notion after the game.

"There's just five games left now and we want to just keep picking up the wins and try to keep the pressure on Urawa," Sekizuka said.

The defeat for Purple Sanga left them propping up the table on 21 points, with Cerezo Osaka and Avispa Fukuoka both moving up to 25 points after 1-0 wins away to Ventforet Kofu and Albirex Niigata, respectively.

The bottom two teams at the end of the season will be relegated while the third-from-bottom team plays a promotion-relegation playoff against the team that finishes third in J2.

In the Jubilo-Urawa game at Yamaha Stadium, Yusuke Inuzuka and Bobby Cullen put the home team 2-0 ahead early on to stun the league leaders.

Washington clawed one back for the Reds, but Takashi Fukunishi restored Jubilo's two-goal lead before Washington's 22nd goal of the season gave Urawa hope. But it is was too little too late.

In other games, Sanfrecce Hiroshima won 3-0 at home to Yokohama F. Marinos and FC Tokyo won 1-0 away to Omiya Ardija as both sides moved away from the relegation zone.

Nagoya Grampus Eight also eased any relegation worries they had by downing Nabisco Cup finalists JEF United Chiba 2-1.

JEF's opponent in the final on Friday, Kashima Antlers, is away to Oita Trinita in the other game Sunday.



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