Mu Kanazaki’s brace fired Kashima Antlers to a 2-1 win at Vissel Kobe to send them top of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League, as Lukas Podolski was unable to stave off defeat on Wednesday.
It was the Noevir Stadium hosts who took the lead through Hirofumi Watanabe but Kanazaki responded 20 minutes later.
Mike Havenaar entered the pitch in place of Podolski as Vissel attempted to break the deadlock, but it was instead Kanazaki who struck the winner in the 86th minute to make it three wins in a row.
The Japanese champions are now two points clear at the top with a game in hand, with Cerezo Osaka collapsing in the second half to lose 3-2 at Shimizu S-Pulse after Koya Kitagawa’s double.
Kazuya Yamamura and Yasuki Kimoto had put the visitors in front but they were unprepared for S-Pulse’s response after the break, Shota Kaneko halving the deficit before Kitagawa intervened decisively.
Urawa Reds meanwhile ended a run of three league games without a win when they beat Ventforet Kofu 1-0 with Yosuke Kashiwagi striking the only goal of the game, and FC Tokyo saw off Omiya Ardija 2-1.
Yokohama F. Marinos moved up to third place with a 2-0 result at struggling Consadole Sapporo, while Kawasaki Frontale breezed to a win by the same scoreline at bottom side Albirex Niigata.
Kashiwa Reysol and Jubilo Iwata played out 0-0 draws with Sagan Tosu and Vegalta Sendai respectively, as Anderson Lopes’ brace saved Sanfrecce Hiroshima from suffering defeat at home to Gamba Osaka.