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Japan's top three clubs were separated by just one point after the weekend's action, with significant movement also taking place at the bottom of the table

ANALYSIS
By Dan Orlowitz

Results

Shimizu S-Pulse 0-2 Urawa Reds, Kashima Antlers 0-1 Albirex Niigata, Omiya Ardija 1-3 Vegalta Sendai, Kashiwa Reysol 0-3 Jubilo Iwata, Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Nagoya Grampus, Gamba Osaka 7-2 Consadole Sapporo, Cerezo Osaka 2-0 Yokohama F. Marinos, Vissel Kobe 0-0 Sagan Tosu, Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 FC Tokyo

THE WEEKEND STORIES

Gamba Osaka broke out of the relegation zone with a second straight week of offensive firepower. The Kansai team exploded against Consadole, scoring seven goals including a hat-trick from the returning Leandro.

At the top of the table, Sanfrecce saw their four-point lead vanish after a surprising loss at home to FC Tokyo. Visiting manager Ranko Popovic stifled the league leaders with a three-man back line featuring Hideto Takahashi at centre.

Both Vegalta Sendai and Urawa Reds gained significant ground the Purple Archers after winning their respective matches on the road at Ardija and S-Pulse.

In a battle between two of the league's highest-scoring clubs, Jubilo Iwata benefited from the 19th-minute expulsion of Naoya Kondo on the way to a 3-0 defeat of holders Kashiwa Reysol. The home team's supporters were none too happy with referee Kenji Ogiya, showering him and his team with boos after the final whistle.

THE STANDINGS | Top Four

  P W D L F A GD Pts
1 S. Hiroshima 23 13 4 6 44 24 +20 43
2 Vegalta Sendai 23 11 9 3 41 21 +20 42
3 Urawa Reds 23 11 8 4 32 22 +10 41
4 Jubilo Iwata 23 11 4 8 48 35 +13 37

PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND

Leandro

Gamba Osaka

The Brazilian's highlight reel hat-trick helped Gamba to their biggest win of the season as well as their first escape from the relegation zone. Since returning to Gamba after three years in the Middle East, Leandro has scored six goals in just one month, making him the club's second-most prolific scorer this season behind Akihiro Sato.
QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND

"At the beginning of the season our goal was a title, but now all we can do is try to avoid relegation."
-Cerezo Osaka president Masao Okano announcing the dismissal of manager Sergio Suarez and reinstatement of former manager Levir Culpi

"Nagoya is f***ing hot. I have got used to it again but I am still struggling."
-Grampus striker Kensuke Nagai on the local temperature, which regularly reaches 35 celsius

"We had the numerical advantage but I didn't think for sure that we would win until we scored our third goal."
-Jubilo Iwata midfielder Hiroki Yamada after his team's 3-0 win at Reysol

ODDS & ENDS

Gamba Osaka have scored 12 goals in the last two matches, instantly becoming the second-highest scoring team in the league. They have also shipped 46 strikes, second only to Consadole's total of 59.

Consadole, for their part, have lost all 11 of their away matches this season. Their winless streak on the road in J1 stands at 19 matches, with the last away win coming at JEF United Chiba on July 13 of 2008.

J2 side Oita Trinita announced the collection of over €1 million in donations, which will allow the club to repay its debts to the J-League in order to potentially earn promotion to J1.

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