Kawasaki Frontale close gap to leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima

Vissel Kobe's Andres Iniesta, fornt, of Spain and Shonan Bellmare's Mitsuki Saito, back, fight for a ball during their J-League soccer match in Hiratsuka, south of Tokyo Sunday Aug. 19, 2018. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Sapporo Consadole's Chanathip Songkrasin, center, with teammates celebrates after scoring a goal against FC Tokyo, during a J-League soccer match in Sapporo, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. (Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO — J-League table-toppers Sanfrecce Hiroshima saw their lead whittled down to six points in a home defeat to their nearest challengers, Kawasaki Frontale, on Sunday.

The leaders went ahead through their prolific scorer Patric before being pegged back by two goals from Frontale's Yu Kobayashi. Frontale are closing in on the slumping leaders and have a game in hand to help their cause.

Third-placed FC Tokyo went 2-0 ahead by half time at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo before letting their opponents back into the match and going down 3-2 in the end, the winning goal coming courtesy of a clever move by Chanathip Songkrasin.

Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe gained a well-deserved 2-0 away win at Shonan Bellmare to hold on to fourth place in the league and on course to challenge for a top-three finish and an Asian Champions League place.

Cerezo Osaka remained fifth after a 2-0 away win at V-Varen Nagasaki, who slipped to the bottom of the division, below Gamba Osaka, which also lost, to Vegalta Sendai, after taking a 1st-half lead through new signing Kazuma Watanabe. The storied Osaka side moved off the bottom on goal difference but need to turn things around fast if they are to survive relegation.

Elsewhere in Japan's top division, Shimizu S-Pulse played to a 3-3 home draw with Urawa Reds, while their Shizuoka area neighbors took a 2-0 home victory off struggling Kashiwa Reysol. Kashima Antlers scored a 1-0 home win over Yokohama F Marinos on a Yasushi Endo goal, leaving the Antlers in a healthy seventh place, only a point behind 4th-placed Vissel. F Marinos are struggling in 15th place, just two points off the bottom of the table.

In the day's other game, Nagoya Grampus gained their fifth win in a row with a 3-0 victory over Sagan Tosu —though Fernando Torres remained goalless — boosting Nagoya to 14th position, two points and three places above their visitors, who are 16th.

Wednesday night sees Emperor's Cup games in Japan before the J-League resumes again on Friday night, when Antlers entertain Jubilo Iwata before the rest of the round's games take place on Saturday.

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