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Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010

Ono's big early goal helps S-Pulse draw

KASHIMA, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Kashima Antlers tripped up again in the J. League first-division title race Saturday as the three-time defending champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Shimizu S-Pulse, leaving them nine points off the pace of Nagoya Grampus with nine games to go.

As Nagoya came from behind to beat Vegalta Sendai 2-1 at home for its fifth in six games, Oswaldo Oliveira's side allowed Shimizu to grab the early lead through Shinji Ono's first strike in an S-Pulse shirt — one of the league's best goals this season.

Daiki Iwamasa restored parity shortly after halftime, but Kashima could not move in front despite taking 20 shots.

Antlers are on 45 points, one point ahead of Cerezo Osaka, who defeated Albirex Niigata 2-1 earlier. S-Pulse have just one win in their last eight games, and are 13 points out of first place.

"We have to make up nine points in nine games, which translates to a difference of three matches," Oliveira said. "But you just never know what can happen. Our job is to play out the 34 games on the calendar.

Cerezo climbed up to third, overtaking crosstown rivals Gamba who were shocked by Tohoku minnows Montedio Yamagata 2-1 in the night cap. Yamagata, in their first J1 season, are now 11 points clear of 16th-place FC Tokyo.

At Kashima Stadium, Ono, 31, put Shimizu in the driver's seat in the 11th minute with his first J. League goal since June 30, 2007, when he was still a member of Urawa Reds.

Elsewhere in J1, former Asian champions Reds stretched their unbeaten run to seven games with a 2-1 victory over Omiya Ardija in the Saitama derby.

Volker Finke's side, who had lost to Ardija in their first meeting this year, rode early goals from Hiroyuki Takasaki in the fourth minute and Yosuke Kashiwagi in the 16th as Reds won for the fourth time in five matches.

Rafael pulled one back for Omiya in the 45th minute, but Urawa hung on for the three points, improving to 38 points with nine matches remaining.

Kawasaki Frontale rebounded from their painful defeat to Gamba Osaka last weekend with a 4-0 win against Vissel at Kobe. Juninho led Frontale, who remain 13 points behind Nagoya, with a double and Masaru Kurotsu and Yusuke Tasaka chipped in with a goal each.

Tadanari Lee struck twice in a space of seven second-half minutes as Sanfrecce rolled to a 3-0 away victory over 17th-place Kyoto Sanga.

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