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After a two-week break for the division's Special Match, several clubs clearly missed their Olympic players as the top of the table tightened up yet again

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

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

THE WEEKEND STORIES

Consadole Sapporo were the first and most unlikely winners of the weekend, breaking a nine-match winless streak to defeat Nagoya Grampus through a last-minute effort by Shinya Uehara.

At the top of the table, neither Sanfrecce or Vegalta were able to gain significant ground following draws with their respective opponents. Those lapses allowed Urawa Reds to close within three points through a convincing 2-0 victory against Jubilo Iwata.

Both Kashiwa Reysol and Kawasaki Frontale outclassed lower-ranked opponents; Masato Kudo's hat-trick doomed Cerezo Osaka to fall into the drop zone, while four different Frontale scorers kept Omiya Ardija in peril.

Meanwhile, Albirex Niigata temporarily escaped the threat of relegation with a convincing 2-0 win at FC Tokyo, who are without goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda and defender Yuhei Tokunaga due to Olympic commitments London.

In the Kansai Derby, Vissel Kobe coach Akira Nishino salvaged a 1-1 draw against his former club Gamba Osaka courtesy of a late goal from Yoshito Okubo.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 S. Hiroshima 19 11 4 4 39 20 +19 37
2 Vegalta Sendai 19 10 7 2 35 16 +19 37
3 Urawa Reds 19 9 7 3 26 18 +8 34
4 Kashiwa Reysol 19 10 3 6 41 30 +11 33

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Masato Kudo

Kashiwa Reysol

Kudo's career-first hat-trick, which followed his July 14 double against Gamba Osaka, made him the second player this season to hit double digits on the scoring table with his eighth, ninth, and 10th goals. With five goals in July, the 22-year-old was a major factor in Reysol's rise to fourth in the standings.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"As his hat-trick mentor I want to say that Kudo-chan did well. He has incredible scoring abilities so I expect great things from him."
Reysol attacker Masakatsu Sawa, who scored his own hat-trick on June 30, on Kudo's achievement

"If [Kensuke] Nagai had been with us in some of these recent matches, we probably could have won."
-Grampus coach Bosko Djurovski, speaking in place of ejected manager Dragan Stojkovic

"There will always be language issues when you pair Australian and Korean centre-backs, but they were able to communicate very well."
-Consadole Sapporo manager Nobuhiro Ishizaki on defenders Jade North and Kim Jae-Hoan

ODDS & ENDS

Both Reds and Marinos are on long undefeated streaks
; the Saitama club are at 10 matches without a loss while the Yokohama side reached 12 last night.

Albirex escaped the drop zone for the first time since Round 7.

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