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While struggling veterans began to show signs of recovery, smaller teams such as Omiya Ardija and Sagan Tosu also recorded important victories as the J-League kicked into gear

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

Consadole Sapporo 2-3 Kawasaki Frontale, Jubilo Iwata 1-0 Yokohama F. Marinos, Vissel Kobe 3-1 Kashiwa Reysol, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-1 Nagoya Grampus, Kashima Antlers 3-2 Cerezo Osaka, Sagan Tosu 1-0 Albirex Niigata, Omiya Ardija 2-0 Urawa Reds, Vegalta Sendai 4-0 FC Tokyo, Gamba Osaka 2-0 Shimizu S-Pulse

THE WEEKEND STORIES

Vegalta Sendai remained unbeaten on top of the table with an overwhelming 4-0 victory over visiting FC Tokyo. Former Tokyo man Shingo Akamine opened the scoring for the hosts in first-half stoppage time, and Vegalta piled on in the second half with scores from Kunimitsu Sekiguchi, Yoshiaki Ota, and Jiro Kamata. Tokyo manager Ranko Popovic was ejected with 15 minutes remaining after repeatedly complaining to the sideline judge.

At Yamaha Stadium, Jubilo Iwata squeaked out a 1-0 win over Yokohama F. Marinos despite overwhelming attacking by the visitors. Hiroki Yamada's 35th-minute goal was the decider as Marinos once again failed to win their first match of the season and coach Yasuhiro Higuchi's position with the club fell under increased presure.

Omiya Stadium was the scene of a sold-out Saitama Derby that saw traditional minnows Omiya Ardija pull off a convincing 2-0 win over Urawa Reds. Cho Young Cheoul's eighth-minute strike was followed by Rafael's less than 20 minutes later, and the visitors were unable to fight back despite bringing on Genki Haraguchi at half-time. Upset Reds supporters threw water at the players after the match, before a large crowd blocked the team bus from leaving the stadium in a tense confrontation.

In the lone Sunday match, Gamba Osaka cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse at Banpaku Memorial Stadium. Takuya Takei, Rafinha, and Akihiro Sato recorded goals for the hosts as they emerged from the relegation zone, while S-Pulse only broke the deadlock on a late additional-time strike by Australian Alex Brosque.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Vegalta Sendai 7 6 1 0 18 6 +12 19
2 Nagoya Grampus 7 4 2 1 11 7 +4 14
3 Jubilo Iwata 7 4 2 1 10 7 +3 14
4 S. Hiroshima 7 4 1 2 10 5 +5 13

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Hiroki Yamada

Jubilo Iwata

The 23-year-old's goal was a masterpiece, evading several Marinos men before letting loose a brilliant shot from the corner of the box. It was the third game-winning goal Yamada has provided Jubilo in all competitions this season, and he'll get the opportunity to show his abilities to Japan national team manager Alberto Zaccheroni in this week's training camp for call-up candidates.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"All we want from a derby is a win."
-Banner raised by Urawa Reds fans as they blocked the team bus from leaving Omiya Stadium following an embarrassing 2-0 loss to rivals Ardija

"[Team manager Yasuhiro] Higuchi is a Marinos through-and-through, and we want to help him."
-Yokohama F. Marinos captain Shunsuke Nakamura after the team's winless streak to start the season extended to seven matches

"I saw that Tokyo look a bit tired because of their ACL appearance, and I thought that if we're able to play in the ACL next season, we still have to be able to play hard."
-Vegalta Sendai manager Makoto Teguramori following his team's 4-0 victory

THE NUMBERS

200 - Kashima Antlers' second-half comeback against Cerezo Osaka earned the club's 200th win at Kashima Stadium
10 - Yokohama F. Marinos are winless in their last ten league matches, tying a club-worst record
23 - Number of J-Leaguers to take part in a mid-week training camp for the Japan national team
300 - One week after Cerezo's Ryuji Bando hit the mark, Jubilo Iwata's Yuichi Komano became the 55th J-League player to mark 300 appearances
11,228 - Average attendance for Round 7; the lowest so far this season

Home is where the heart is - This week's home teams all took at least one point save for Consadole Sapporo, who squandered a 2-0 half-time lead in their eventual 3-2 loss to Kawasaki Frontale

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