Football: Muto goal ensures Kobe win over tricky Sanfrecce

Yoshinori Muto played a big role in Vissel Kobe's opening goal before scoring one late as the J-League first-division leaders saw off Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 at home on Saturday.

Muto's pass forced an own goal from Sanfrecce two minutes after the break, while the former Mainz and Newcastle man found the net deep into the stoppage time at Noevir Stadium as Kobe moved up to 29 points, six points clear of the visitors.

Sanfrecce, who have a game in hand, could have led just a minute into the game when forward Takumu Kawamura found space inside the box but saw his shot saved by keeper Daiya Maekawa.

Kobe midfielder Daiju Sasaki wasted his 20th-minute free header from a corner and later dragged a shot wide to leave the game scoreless at the break.

The league leaders were ahead two minutes into the second half following a counter down the left. Yuya Osako received the ball in the middle before releasing former Japan teammate Muto to his right, and his first-time pass into the box was slid into Hiroshima's goal by their defender Hayato Araki.

Douglas Vieira came off the bench on the hour mark and almost provided an instant impact for resilient Hiroshima, but the forward's right-footed shot was blocked by defender Tetsushi Yamakawa.

Koya Yuruki sent his shot just wide of the post moments later at the other end as Kobe, who kept Spanish icon Andres Iniesta on the bench, endured a nervy end to the match

But Muto made sure they had all three points in the bag five minutes into stoppage time, as Osako dragged three Sanfrecce players near the halfway line before releasing his fellow forward. Muto still had some work to do against his marker but created a yard of space before finding the net from 20 meters out for his fourth goal of the season.

"It was a tough game, but everyone played their part to stave them off and not concede," Kobe manager Takayuki Yoshida said. "The goals were down to all of their efforts."

Elsewhere, Consadole Sapporo came from behind to win 4-2 away to Shonan Bellmare and move up to 19 points, while Yokohama FC climbed off the bottom of the table by beating Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 away for their second win of the season.

© Kyodo News