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Monday, July 18, 2011

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Balancing act: Urawa Reds forward Genki Haraguchi (left) slips past Jubilo Iwata midfielder Daisuke Nasu during Sunday's match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. KYODO

Marinos climb into first place with draw


OMIYA, Saitama Pref. — Yokohama F. Marinos withstood a late onslaught to go top of the J. League after a 1-1 draw away to Omiya Ardija on Sunday night.

Yuji Ono headed Yokohama in front late in the first half, but Rafael leveled 16 minutes from time and Yokohama was indebted to Hiroki Iikura for some inspired goalkeeping to move ahead of Kashiwa Reysol on goal difference at the midway point of the season.

Both Yokohama and Kashiwa, who went down 3-2 at Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday, have 34 points after 17 games, while champions Nagoya Grampus (30) moved third with a game in hand after goals from Keiji Tamada and Josh Kennedy secured a 2-0 win at Montedio Yamagata.

"It would be great if the season stopped now," joked Yokohama boss Kazushi Kimura.

"The heat out there was punishing today and you have to give the players credit. Whoever plays it's all about teamwork and now we have to keep on trying to grind out results."

Omiya started the brighter in energy-sapping heat in Saitama and Chikara Fujimoto nearly caught Iikura napping with a speculative effort after three minutes.

Yokohama failed to create any clear first-half chance, but the visitors took the lead eight minutes before the break when unmarked Ono glanced home Shunsuke Nakamura's right-wing corner.

Rafael was inches away from leveling with a 56th-minute header and the lanky Brazilian striker, then set up Lee Chun Soo to test Iikura from the edge of the box.

Omiya moved up a gear and finally grabbed a deserved equalizer, then Rafael stabbed home Kota Ueda's pass.

Fujimoto nearly snatched a winner for Omiya but was denied by a superb reaction save from Iikura 10 minutes from time.

"We did well until we were undone by that set piece and we just couldn't make the break through," said Omiya boss Jun Suzuki. "We have to be finishing our opponents off."

In other games, Chikashi Masuda, Takuya Nozawa and Yuzo Tashiro were all on target as Kashima Antlers cruised past fading Vegalta Sendai 3-0, while a last-gasp strike from Ryoichi Maeda gave Jubilo Iwata a 1-1 draw at home to Urawa Reds.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima play Avispa Fukuoka in the Kyushu derby on Monday.

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