Soccer: Osako winner sends Kobe closer to ACL, relegates Yokohama FC

© Kyodo News

Yuya Osako and Andres Iniesta scored as Vissel Kobe moved close to a top-three finish in the J-League first division on Saturday, winning 2-0 at Yokohama FC, who were consigned to the second-tier J2 in the process.

The win took Kobe to 70 points, five above closest rivals Nagoya Grampus with just two games to play as they seek the final automatic promotion spot for the next season's Asian Champions League.

The defeat left bottom-side Yokohama FC on 27 points, nine points off safety with just two games to play.

Vegalta Sendai were also relegated after their 2-0 defeat at home to Shonan Bellmare left them on 27 points. Oita Trinita are also down, their 0-0 draw at Kashima Antlers leaving them 18th on 29 points.

Osako, who started but failed to score in Japan's World Cup qualifiers at Vietnam and Oman over the past 10 days, found the back of the net nine minutes in at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium after Iniesta played him through with a nicely weighted pass down the left.

Osako cut in and slightly shifted the ball away from a defender before pulling the trigger to strike it low past goalkeeper Svend Brodersen and inside the near post.

Tatsuki Seko pulled his effort narrowly wide for Yokohama FC five minutes later in their only real chance of the half, before Osako won a penalty in the 31st minute after defender Gabriel gave away the ball to Yoshinori Muto near the halfway line.

The former Newcastle man, who has been on fire since returning to the J-League, fed Osako before being brought down by Katsuya Iwatake inside the box. Iniesta calmly converted from the spot, shooting low to his left.

The Spanish World Cup winner went off at the break, and Kobe lost some of their rhythm in the second half, but the home side failed to make most of their spell in the opposition half.

Veteran Shunsuke Nakamura came on in the 84th minute and provided a good cross in the 90th minute, but Ryo Germain scuffed his header wide before the Celtic legend's trademark free-kick from 30 meters out was caught by keeper Hiroki Iikura.

"Their abilities are very high. They are different sort of players but are combining well," Vissel manager Atsuhiro Miura said of the striking partnership of Osako and Muto, who both joined the side over the summer.

"Iniesta showed us a top-class display in the first half, not just offensively but defensively too. We have to manage his condition, so I took him off as a precaution. We just have to do what we can in each of the remaining games and win one at a time."

Champions Kawasaki Frontale cruised to a 4-1 win at Cerezo Osaka behind a Leandro Damiao double, while second-place Yokohama F Marinos lost 2-1 away to Urawa Reds.

Nagoya won 3-1 at Gamba Osaka with Jakub Swierczok scoring a brace, while Sagan Tosu beat Consadole Sapporo 1-0 at home. Kashiwa Reysol and Avispa Fukuoka had a 0-0 stalemate.

In the battle for survival, Shimizu S-Pulse secured a crucial 1-0 home win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima. They are 16th on 36 points, trailing 15th-place Shonan on goal difference.

Tokushima Vortis are the only side with a chance to get out of the relegation zone after a 2-0 win away to FC Tokyo. They are 17th on 33 points, three behind Shonan and Shimizu.