Late goal denies Gamba Osaka chance to join Reds at top in Japan
Gamba Osaka conceded an equaliser in stoppage time in a 1-1 home draw against Vegalta Sendai on Sunday to squander a chance to join Urawa Reds at the top of the J-League.
The Reds, who are eyeing their first title since 2006, are on 58 points with Osaka on 56, having played a game more than the leaders.
After a goalless first half, Kotaro Omori gave the hosts the lead immediately after resumption but Atsushi Yanagisawa broke the hearts of the home fans with his strike in the third minute after regulation.
Kawasaki Frontale also conceded a late goal to suffer a shock 3-2 defeat at home to Shimizu S-Pulse, which effectively ended their title hopes.
Shimizu substitute Kazuya Murata scored the winner in the 90th minute as Kawasaki, who lost captain and playmaker Kengo Nakamura in the second half through an injury, remained on fifth, seven points behind the Reds, who play at Yokohama F-Marinos on Monday.
Third-placed Kashima Antlers defeated Albirex Niigata 2-1 to close within four points of Reds while fourth-placed Sagan Tosu also won 2-1 at home against Vissel Kobe to be five points behind the leaders.
"It`s still mathematically possible," Kawasaki striker Yoshito Okubo was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency. "But it`s up to Reds and what they do.
"We were too one-paced today. Everything we do is at the same tempo. After Kengo left the game, there was no one to flick the switch.
"I didn`t even know what to do because no one was willing to take risks. We just kept passing it horizontally, over and over."
The three points moved relegation-threatened Shimizu to the 15th spot, two points ahead of Omiya Ardija and four more than Cerezo Osaka at 17th.
"We were expecting Frontale to start tiring in the second half and have some opportunities," Shimizu manager Katsumi Oenoki said.
"After we equalised twice, we missed a few chances for a third but Murata came through for us in the end.
"It`s a huge three points for us."