Football: Vissel hammer Gamba, top J-League after 3 straight wins

Vissel Kobe eased past local rivals Gamba Osaka 4-0 at home Saturday, rising to the top of the J-League standings with their third straight win to open the new season.

Gotoku Sakai hit a brace, while fellow former Japan internationals and Bundesliga returnees Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto also scored at Noevir Stadium for Vissel, who flirted with relegation last year but have scored eight goals while conceding one so far this term.

After going 11 straight games without a win to start last season, Kobe's fortunes turned following the appointment last June of manager Takayuki Yoshida, in charge of the club for the third time.

"Each team member spared no pains in giving all they had until the end," Sakai said of Kobe, who were without Andres Iniesta, back in Spain for family reasons.

"We showed cohesion toward the end of last season, and we've been convinced since the preseason camp that we can get positive results by showing it from the start of the campaign."

Vissel needed just three minutes to take the lead when Hotaru Yamaguchi's cutback was steered home by Osako -- a surprise omission for Japan at the Qatar World Cup -- whose scuffed effort rolled inside the near post.

Takashi Usami's sixth-minute strike from outside the box struck the bar for Gamba before Kobe were dealt a blow when injured center-back Ryuho Kikuchi came off midway through the half, but they hung onto the lead and hit three more after the break.

Sakai doubled the home side's advantage in the 47th minute when the ball fell to the right-back outside the box. Instead of playing the ball wide, he cut inside and struck a left-footed effort that deflected in off a defender.

Muto scored a free header off a Ryo Hatsuse corner in the 66th minute before setting up Sakai's second seven minutes later, the forward's reverse ball from the right allowing Sakai to venture into the box and smash high into the net from a tight angle.

Gamba, who struggled last season like Vissel, remain winless after they began the season with two draws.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus's perfect start came to an end as Yoichi Naganuma's header saw Sagan Tosu prevail 1-0 at home for their first win of the season.

Kashima Antlers won 3-1 at promoted Yokohama FC for their second victory, while Avispa Fukuoka downed Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 at home, also for their second win.

Kawasaki Frontale and Shonan Bellmare drew their Kanagawa derby 1-1. Promoted Albirex Niigata drew 2-2 at home against Consadole Sapporo.

Kyoto Sanga ended their two-game losing run with a 2-0 home win over FC Tokyo, handing them their first defeat of the season.

Asian Champions League finalists Urawa Reds, who also began the season with two defeats, came from behind to edge Cerezo Osaka 2-1 at home.

© Kyodo News