Yoshinori Muto assisted on former Japan teammate Yuya Osako's opening goal before twice finding the net himself as Vissel Kobe ran away 3-0 winners over Avispa Fukuoka in the J-League first-division Sunday.
The victory at a drizzly Best Denki Stadium in Fukuoka lifted Takayuki Yoshida's squad up to second in the standings, three points behind leaders Yokohama F Marinos, who have played one more game.
While possession was evenly split and both teams had chances, Kobe made the most of theirs to come away with three vital points.
Osako struck in the 22nd minute after pouncing on a wayward pass and sending a through ball to Muto, who played it straight back for the J1's second-leading scorer to side-foot from the middle of the area.
"Either of us may have been able to shoot in that situation, but it was about getting the highest percentage shot," Muto said.
Muto made it 2-0 in the 60th minute after another former Samurai Blue player, midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi, set him up with a back-heel just inside the box.
Osako was involved in Muto's second three minutes from the end, dribbling up the middle and sending the ball wide to substitute Nanasei Iino, whose cross was volleyed home by the former Mainz and Newcastle United forward.
"Now that we're in the second half of the season and aiming for the championship, it's one game after another that we really can't afford to lose," Muto said. "If we give 100 percent each game, accumulating three points at a time, we have a chance to get there."
Spanish star Andre Iniesta is set to play his final game for Kobe at home to Consadole Sapporo next Saturday. The 39-year-old was not in the squad against Fukuoka.