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The attention of Japanese football fans was split between league play and the Under-23 men's quarterfinal against Egypt, but those at local stadiums had plenty to cheer about

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

As the J-League race continued to tighten, Vegalta Sendai returned to first place through a 2-2 draw against Yokohama F. Marinos. Rivals Sanfrecce seemed poised to retain their own lead, but surrendered two late goals to S-Pulse in a 2-1 defeat.

In Saitama, the Reds were in prime position to gain ground on the leaders after creating a 2-0 lead against FC Tokyo, but settled for the draw after surrendering two goals in the second half. Defending champs Reysol also failed to capitalise, settling for a 1-1 draw at lowly Albirex.

The weekend treated both Osakan teams well, with Gamba returnee Leandro sparking a 3-1 win over Ardija with his double, while Cerezo cruised to a 4-0 shutout of Consadole Sapporo.

Nagoya Grampus did just fine without manager Dragan 'Pixy' Stojkovic, who recieved a one-match touchline ban following his ejection from last weekend's shock upset by Consadole. The 2010 champions rode Marcus Tulio Tanaka's four-goal performance to a 5-1 win over Vissel Kobe.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Vegalta Sendai 20 10 8 2 37 18 +19 38
2 S. Hiroshima 20 11 4 5 40 22 +18 37
3 Urawa Reds 20 9 8 3 28 20 +8 35
4 Kashiwa Reysol 20 10 4 6 42 31 +11 34

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Marcus Tulio Tanaka

Nagoya Grampus

While it's hardly uncommon for Japanese centre-backs to contribute on the attack, the 31-year-old's quartet of goals in Grampus' 5-1 win against Vissel was unprecedented. Tanaka became the first defensive player in the history of the league to record such a haul, and helped his side rise up to fifth place, within three points of the top three.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"Frankly I'm happy, but I've already put it behind me. We have to prepare for what's next."
-Gamba striker Leandro on his first goals since re-joining his former club in July

"Some people might get mad at me for saying this but I'm supporting Japan over Brazil."
-Brazil-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka on his country's Olympic progress.

"I wish Matsu was here to celebrate that goal with us."
-Yokohama F. Marinos captain Shunsuke Nakamura after scoring on the one-year anniversary of Japan international Naoki Matsuda's death

ODDS & ENDS

Cerezo recorded their 100th home win in J1 with their 4-0 victory over Consadole.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Hisato Sato recorded his 100th J1 goal with the club in their 2-1 loss to S-Pulse.

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