TOKYO (AFP): Sanfrecce Hiroshima claimed the J-League title for the first time when they defeated Cerezo Osaka 4-1 on Saturday, with their nearest rivals Vegalta Sendai losing to Albirex Niigata 1-0. It was their first title since Japanese football went professional in 1993.
Going into Saturday’s games, Sendai had trailed Hiroshima by one point with one more game each left this season.
“It was a very difficult season,” said Japan international striker Hisato Sato.
“Our supporters helped us to win the title. I want to thank them.”
Midfielder Yojiro Takahagi opened the scoring when he collected a rebound off a defender in the 17th minute.
Toshihiro Aoyama then made it two, hitting home a cross from Hironori Ishikawa in the 20th minute.
Sato, the J-League’s top goal scorer, added another with a penalty in the 42nd minute and Ishikawa completed the scoring for Hiroshima in the 50th minute.
Takuma Edamura pulled one back for Osaka in the 61st minute but it was too little too late.
“I feel great,” said Takahagi. “We won the title because so many spectators came to the stadium today as well. Thank you very much.”
Aoyama said: “We became the number one club in Japan. I had wondered how the season would go, but it became our best-ever season.”
Hiroshima are now unbeatable on 61 points, ahead of Sendai on 57 points, Sagan Tosu on 53 points, and defending champions Kashiwa Reysol on 52 points alongside Urawa Red Diamonds and Nagoya Grampus.
Tosu upset Urawa 3-1, Nagoya lost to Kashima Antlers 2-1, and Kashiwa beat Vissel Kobe 1-0. In other games, Gamba Osaka kept their hopes of remaining in the top league alive with a 2-2 draw against FC Tokyo, while Yokohama Marinos downed Consadole Sapporo 2-0.
Omiya Ardija defeated Jubilo Iwata 2-0, and Kawasaki Frontale outclassed Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1. -AFP
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