East Asia Domestic Wrap: New leaders in Japan, thrilling race in K League
Kuala Lumpur: For the first time since mid-April, the J.League has a new team in first place, while the top two in Korea Republic both dropped points to keep things tight in the run-in for the 2019 title.
The majority of the leagues in East Asia did not see action over the weekend, but there was plenty to savour in the Japanese and Korean domestic ties, so join the-AFC.com as we review the latest rounds of fixtures in East Asia.
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From Game Week 8 onwards, FC Tokyo have held onto the summit of the J.League with a vicelike grip but, finally, in Game Week 28, they lost their hold. The capital city side's second defeat from their last three games, this time away at relegation-threatened Sagan Tosu on Saturday, saw Kashima Antlers take full advantage the day after.
The Ibaraki side impressively defeated top six team Cerezo Osaka away from home and leapfrogged FC Tokyo, creating a two-point gap between themselves and the former frontrunners.
Ange Postecoglou's Yokohama F. Marinos also remain in the running after a 2-0 win away at Jubilo Iwata on Saturday that sees them just a further point back. Kawasaki Frontale and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who are five points behind in fourth and fifth respectively, both enjoyed big wins on the weekend with Frontale drubbing Shonan Bellmare 5-0 and Sanfrecce seeing off Vissel Kobe 6-2.
AFC Champions League semi-finalists Urawa Red Diamonds were the other big movers as their 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse helped steer them away from relegation worries as they moved into 10th place.
There was a chance for either of the two sides at the top of Korea Republic's K League to extend leads or make up ground, but both Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors had Sundays to forget.
Kim Tae-hwan had given Ulsan the lead away at Pohang Steelers but a stunning conclusion to the game at The Steelyard saw first Aleksandar Palocevic level things up with an 87th minute penalty, before Lee Gwang-hyeok netted the winner for the hosts deep into injury time to complete the comeback.
Playing at the team sitting second from bottom, Jeonbuk would have expected to make up ground on Ulsan but Incheon United proved a tricky opponent and the sides ended up sharing a goalless stalemate. The respective results sees Jeonbuk remain in second, albeit just a point off Ulsan.
The other noteworthy tie was the Super Match between rivals FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings. In front of over 16,000 at Suwon World Cup Stadium it was the visitors who came out on top 2-1 thanks to goals from Park Chu-young and Lee Myung-joo.
Photos: Kashima Antlers
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