The ninth round of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League ended much as it began, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima in front and the gap behind them widening after their 1-0 win against Sagan Tosu.
Red-hot striker Patric was again the hero in the team’s hour of need, scoring off Teerasil Dangda’s assist for his fifth goal in three matches as the 2015 champions rose to 25 points on an undefeated 8-1-0 record.
They are now being chased by FC Tokyo, who won 1-0 at Shimizu S-Pulse thanks to Kensuke Nagai’s light-footed strike in the 59th minute. Kenta Hasegawa’s men, who rose to second place with 16 points, will host Sanfrecce on Wednesday night.
Veteran manager Mihailo Petrovic’s return to Saitama Stadium ended in a scoreless draw between his Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Urawa Reds, who were led for the last time by Tsuyoshi Otsuki before handing the reins over to Oswaldo Oliveira. Consadole extended their unbeaten streak to a club-best six matches, while the Reds remain undefeated since the dismissal of previous manager Takafumi Hori.
Cerezo Osaka, who started the day in second, fell to fifth place after a narrow 1-0 loss at crosstown rivals Gamba Osaka. The Osaka Derby atmosphere was muted early in the first half when Gamba defender Kenta Miura collided head-to-head with his own goalkeeper, Masaaki Higashiguchi.
The accident forced Higashiguchi to leave the match in the 16th minute with a suspected orbital fracture. Mizuki Hayashi put in an impressive performance in relief between the posts, while Hwang Ui-jo scored against fellow countryman Kim Jin-hyeon from the penalty spot to give Gamba their second win of the campaign.
Nagoya Grampus replaced Gamba at the bottom of the table after losing 3-0 at Vissel Kobe, who earned their third win in four matches thanks to a pair of goals from captain Lukas Podolski.
The J1’s 18 clubs will face a grueling schedule in the coming weeks, with mid-week fixtures scheduled for April 25 and May 2 ahead of the late-May break for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Full Results: 2018 J1 League Round 9
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-1 FC Tokyo
Vegalta Sendai 0-3 Jubilo Iwata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 Sagan Tosu
Urawa Reds 0-0 Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F. Marinos 4-4 Shonan Bellmare
Vissel Kobe 3-0 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 1-0 Cerezo Osaka
V-Varen Nagasaki 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol