By Dan Orlowitz
Consadole Sapporo 2-4 Vissel Kobe, FC Tokyo 0-1 Omiya Ardija, Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Kashiwa Reysol, Urawa Reds 2-1 Kashima Antlers, Yokohama F. Marinos 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale, Albirex Niigata 0-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Jubilo Iwata 4-3 Cerezo Osaka, Nagoya Grampus 0-5 Gamba Osaka, Sagan Tosu 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Sanfrecce Hiroshima drove further ahead of the pack this weekend on goals by Hisato Sato and Naoki Ishihara, taking advantage of Vegalta Sendai's scoreless draw against Reysol to open a four-point lead on top of the J-League.
Reysol also took a hit from the result, which allowed Urawa Reds to leapfrog into third place. The 2007 Asian Champions League winners triumphed 2-1 over Kashima Antlers in a controversial result that provoked visiting manager Jorginho to once again criticise Japanese officiating at his post-match press conference.
In one of the weekend's marquee match-ups, Yokohama F. Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale drew shared a 2-2 draw in the Kanagawa Derby. Marqinhos' first-half double for the hosts was cancelled out in the second half by Yusuke Tanaka's brace.
At the bottom of the table, Gamba Osaka took another big step toward escaping the drop zone with a commanding 5-0 win at Nagoya Grampus. City-rivals Cerezo, on the other hand, fell 4-3 at Jubilo Iwata after allowing a late double to Ryoichi Maeda.
In Jubilo's wild back-and-forth match against Cerezo, it was the 31-year-old veteran who came through in the clutch with two late goals to snatch a 4-3 victory from the jaws of defeat. With 11 goals to his name so far this season, Maeda is showing the same form that earned him two Golden Boots in 2009 and 2010.
"This is what Gamba-style football looks like."
-Gamba defender Yasuyuki Konno after scoring his first goal for the club in their 5-0 thrashing of Grampus
"If the J-League continues to ignore its poor refereeing, fans are going to stop going to matches."
-Kashima Antlers boss Jorginho in a post-loss rant that drew tears from his translator
"I can't say that anybody played well."
-Consadole Sapporo coach Nobuhiro Ishizaki, after his last-place club drew 1-1 with their Under-18 academy following Saturday's 4-2 loss to Vissel Kobe.
Urawa Reds drew over 40,000 fans to Saitama Stadium for just the third time this season.
In the last three years, Japanese clubs have needed an average of nearly 38 points to avoid relegation. In order to reach that mark, Gamba will have to win at least half of their remaining 12 matches.
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