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Friday, Nov. 24, 2006

Washington strikes twice for title-chasing Urawa

SAITAMA (Kyodo) Brazilian striker Washington went from zero to hero with a second-half double as Urawa Reds cruised past 10-man Ventforet Kofu 3-0 on Thursday to zero in on their first J. League championship crown.

Washington had two penalties saved by Kensaku Abe late in the first half in Saitama but the 31-year-old forward made amends with headers either side of Nobuhisa Yamada's superb solo effort to put the Reds within one win of the title.

Urawa moved five points clear of defending champions Gamba Osaka, who were held 1-1 at relegation-haunted Avispa Fukuoka, and Guido Buchwald's men will be crowned champions with a game to spare if they beat FC Tokyo away on Sunday.

At Hakata-no-Mori Stadium, Gamba took the lead through Masafumi Maeda after four minutes but Fukuoka quickly hit back when Mitsunori Yabuta pounced on a blunder from Gamba goalkeeper Naoki Matsuyo to slot home the equalizer.

Gamba striker Magno Alves hit the post twice as the visitors spurned a host of chances to win it in and allowed Urawa, their opponents on the final day of the season, to pull away at the top.

Third-place Kawasaki Frontale's slim championship hopes ended after a 4-3 defeat away to Shimizu S-Pulse left them on 61 points.

At the bottom of the table, Fukuoka and Kyoto Purple Sanga remained in the automatic relegation places with Cerezo Osaka third from bottom.

Cerezo drew 1-1 at home to 10-man Nagoya Grampus Eight and have 27 points with two games left while Fukuoka has 26. Kyoto (22) lost 3-1 at home to Jubilo Iwata and look all but certain of an immediate return to the second division.



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