Goals from Yoshio Koizumi and Takuya Ogiwara gave Urawa Reds a 2-0 home win over Kashiwa Reysol in the J-League first division on Friday as they secured three points to remain in the thick of the title race.
With four more games to play, the result moved Urawa up to 53 points -- one behind second-place Yokohama F Marinos and five behind leaders Vissel Kobe, who both play Saturday.
Koizumi swept in a rebound for the 53rd-minute opener at Saitama Stadium after fellow midfielder Kaito Yasui ran behind the Kashiwa backline and took a shot from an angle. Keeper Kenta Matsumoto made a save, but could only manage a slight touch on Koizumi's follow-up.
"It's been a long tough period having not scored once this season in the league," Koizumi said. "I'm really happy to have scored to give that little bit of power to the team at this stage of the season as we chase the title."
Defender Ogiwara doubled the lead four minutes later with a fine team effort, started off by Tomoaki Okubo who also began the move for the opener.
The midfielder drove into a pocket of space in front of Kashiwa defenders and laid the ball off for Koizumi, who quickly played the ball to his left to an overlapping Ogiwara, who rifled an unstoppable first-time effort inside the far post.
Kashiwa had their chances early on in the match but Sachiro Toshima's close-range shot was saved by Urawa keeper Shusaku Nishikawa before Tomoki Takamine's effort from outside the box whistled over the bar in the 24th minute.
Striker Shinzo Koroki's header flew just wide of the post for Urawa five minutes before the break, but their commanding start to the second half swayed the tie as their mean defense, whose 22 goals conceded are fewest in the league, kept Kashiwa at bay and 16th in the standings, six points clear of bottom side Yokohama FC.
In the day's other match, Kawasaki Frontale came from behind to beat Avispa Fukuoka 4-2 at home.