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The Purple Archers are ahead on goals scored following Hisato Sato's double, while other mid-table teams raced to catch up with the leaders as the league's second half began

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

Shimizu S-Pulse 3-5 Kashiwa Reysol, Omiya Ardija 2-2 Vissel Kobe, Albirex Niigata 0-0 Urawa Reds, Jubilo Iwata 4-1 Consadole Sapporo, Nagoya Grampus 0-0 Vegalta Sendai, Gamba Osaka 1-2 Yokohama F. Marinos, Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Kashima Antlers, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-0 Kawasaki Frontale, Sagan Tosu 1-0 FC Tokyo

THE WEEKEND STORIES

For the first time this season, a team other than Vegalta Sendai is on top of the J-League. Sanfrecce Hiroshima earned the honour with an effortless 3-0 win against Kawasaki Frontale, with all three goals scored in the first 19 minutes.

Meanwhile, rivals Vegalta fell into second place after their scoreless draw at Nagoya Grampus. Below them in third, Urawa Reds could do no better than a goalless stalemate at Albirex Niigata, who are now only three points from safety.

Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol won a testy 5-3 affair at Shimizu S-Pulse, scoring four unanswered goals against the nine-man hosts. The match was officiated by the ever-controversial Yuichi Nishimura, who will also be a referee at the London Olympics.

In a battle between two J-League founders, Gamba Osaka suffered another embarrassing home loss after Yokohama F. Marinos striker Manabu Saito scored in the fourth minute of additional time to secure a 2-1 win for the visitors.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 S. Hiroshima 18 11 3 4 37 18 +19 36
2 Vegalta Sendai 18 10 6 2 34 15 +16 36
3 Urawa Reds 18 8 7 3 24 18 +6 31
4 Jubilo Iwata 18 9 3 6 38 27 +2 30

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Hisato Sato

Sanfrecce Hiroshima

The league's elder statesman continues to run away with the scoring title with his 13th and 14th goals of the season. Sato is the only player so far this season to have cracked double digits, and at his current pace will not only be the first player since Ryoichi Maeda in 2009 to cross the 20-goal mark, but could potentially hit 30 for the first time since Gamba's Araujo in 2005.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"It's an incredible achievement to score the team's 1000th goal, but I'm disappointed that despite setting a record as great as that we couldn't win."
Shimizu S-Pulse striker Genki Omae on his successful penalty kick

"If it was the end of the season I might feel different, but right now being in first place doesn't mean anything."
-Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Hisato Sato on the team's first appearance on top of the league since he joined in 2005

"Last time we lost 3-2, so this time we were able to pay them back."
-Sagan Tosu's Ryohei Niwa after defeating FC Tokyo 1-0 at home

ODDS & ENDS

Urawa Reds are undefeated in nine straight matches.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the table Consadole Sapporo lost their ninth straight match for the first time since 2002.

Both Sanfrecce's Kohei Shimizu and Omiya Ardija's Daisuke Watabe scored their first career goals on Saturday; both are in their fifth pro season.

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