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J-League Review: Vegalta Sendai retain lead at halfway point while Nagoya Grampus climb to fourth

The league leaders remained steady with an away win, but with Sanfrecce Hiroshima trailing by just two points the competition is wide open heading into the second half

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

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

THE WEEKEND STORIES

With half the J-League season elapsed Vegalta Sendai still stand on top of the table after protecting Shingo Akamine's lone goal against a furious Vissel Kobe onslaught in their 1-0 away win. With just two losses to their name, Vegalta have remained in sole possession of first place since the fourth round.

At Saitama Stadium, Urawa Reds held on against a brave Sagan Tosu squad for a 4-3 victory. Olympic reject Genki Haraguchi scored a double for the hosts, while Sagan mounted a stirring comeback in the second half with three goals in four minutes.

In nearby Kashiwa Stadium, Reysol struggled in the rain against Nagoya Grampus, losing 2-1 as the visitors scored through a Josh Kennedy strike as well as an own goal. Fans who stayed after the match were greeted by former Reysol defender Hiroki Sakai, who departed the club last week for Germany's Hannover.

An injury-plagued FC Tokyo had better fortunes in the rain as Lucas scored two goals against his former Gamba Osaka team-mates in the host's 3-2 win. The result means that Gamba will start the second half of the season in 17th place, a whole 6 points from safety.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Vegalta Sendai 17 10 5 2 34 15 +19 35
2 S. Hiroshima 17 10 3 4 34 18 +16 33
3 Urawa Reds 17 8 6 3 24 18 +6 30
4 Nagoya Grampus 17 8 4 4 25 23 +2 28

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Yosuke Kashiwagi

Urawa Reds

The 24-year-old put in a tremendous appearance for the Reds on Saturday night, beginning the play that lead to the team's first goal before assisting the next three. His sharp movements confounded the Tosu defence and helped to extend the Saitama club's unbeaten streak to eight matches.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"I'm disappointed that I wasn't selected for the Olympics, but this was an opportunity for me to play well and I'm glad I was able to leave a good result."
-Reds attacker Genki Haraguchi on his game-winning double

"We weren't able to play as well as we usually do because of the rain."
-Kashiwa Reysol manager Nelsinho after the team's 2-1 loss to Grampus

"To put it simply, it wasn't an interesting match."
Kawasaki Frontale manager Yahiro Kazama after the team's scoreless draw against Marinos

ODDS & ENDS

Gamba Osaka are in 17th place despite scoring 26 goals; fifth-most in the league. Their 38 goals allowed are tied for league-worst with Consadole Sapporo, who have accumulated just four points from 17 matches.

Average attendance has crossed 20,000 fans/match in only three rounds so far this season.

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