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Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010

Antlers refuse to concede title to Grampus


Staff writer

KAWASAKI — Kashima Antlers manager Oswaldo Oliveira has warned Nagoya Grampus not to start celebrating their first-ever J. League title just yet, even as Dragan Stojkovic's side moved to match point in the championship race on Sunday.

News photo
Almost there: Keiji Tamada (right) and Nagoya Grampus moved a step closer to the J. League title on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

Grampus beat Omiya Ardija 2-1 to take an eight-point lead at the top of the table into the final four games of the season, and can clinch the title with a win against relegated Shonan Bellmare on Saturday if nearest challenger Kashima fails to beat Vissel Kobe.

But Oliveira, whose team came from behind to beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 on Sunday, knows first hand that nothing is decided until it is mathematically certain. The Brazilian won the first of his three straight titles with Kashima when bottom club Yokohama FC beat leaders Urawa Reds on the final day of the 2007 season, and is hoping Shonan can do the same after losing its top-flight status with a 5-0 defeat to Shimizu S-Pulse on Sunday.

"I will tell you again to remember Yokohama FC," Oliveira said. "In football it is like this. If you ask me about basketball then no, because if you don't have equilibrium the stronger team always wins. But not in football."

Goals from Koji Nakata and Mitsuo Ogasawara helped Antlers overhaul Frontale after Vitor Junior had opened the scoring at Todoroki Stadium, but Igor Burzanovic and Takahiro Masakawa both struck for Nagoya against ten-man Omiya to keep the league leaders firmly in the driving seat.

"There was definitely a lot of pressure on us today, and coming to Todoroki you know you are in for a very difficult time," Oliveira said. "It's not a place where you can win easily.

"We needed to play as a team rather than as individuals, and we needed to work hard for each other and watch each other's backs. We knew that if we did that we would have the upper hand."

But Oliveira knows that his team still faces an uphill battle to stop Nagoya, and acknowledges that Stojkovic has the personnel to finish the job after leading the league for most of the season.

"The level of Nagoya's players and the experience they have, even playing for other clubs, is something that is different from the others," he said. "You can see the level that their players are at.

"In my opinion the winner will be the best team, but so far I see my team at the same level as the others. We beat Nagoya twice, home and away, and we scored four in Nagoya."

Elsewhere in the J. League, Kyoto Sanga joined Bellmare in relegation to J2 after a 2-0 defeat to Urawa, and FC Tokyo took a crucial step toward avoiding the same fate with a 2-1 win over Yokohama F. Marinos courtesy of two goals from Sota Hirayama. Kobe salvaged a 1-1 draw with Albirex Niigata but fell two points behind Tokyo in the third and final relegation slot.

Ventforet Kofu sealed a return to the first division after a three-year absence by beating Tochigi SC 2-0.

Vegalta Sendai all but secured their top-flight survival with a 3-0 win over Jubilo Iwata, while Montedio Yamagata drew 3-3 with Cerezo Osaka. In the day's other J1 game, Gamba Osaka beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0.



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