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Soccer: Rock-bottom Kobe hit 4 past Sapporo for 2nd league win

Vissel Kobe's Yoshinori Muto (11) scores a header during the J-League first-division match against Consadole Sapporo on May 29, 2022 at Noevir Stadium in Kobe, western Japan. (Kyodo)

KOBE (Kyodo) -- Bottom-of-the-table Vissel Kobe thumped Consadole Sapporo 4-1 at home in the J-League first division Sunday, showing signs of improvement in their season's second win.

    Kobe, third last year, remain at the foot of the table with 11 points from 16 games, but the Andres Iniesta-captained side showed their attacking prowess against Sapporo, who went a man down with 14 minutes to go after all goals were scored.

    At sweltering Noevir Stadium, Iniesta's corner was cleared but defender Tetsushi Yamakawa's first-time effort found the left bottom corner from 30 meters out for the 17th-minute opener.

    Trailing despite dominating the first half, Sapporo were level in the 59th minute after Kobe keeper Daiya Maekawa dropped an early cross and allowed forward Douglas Oliveira to take a touch inside the box before firing in off the right post.

    Three goals in 10 minutes swung the tie for Kobe, however, with former Newcastle man Yoshinori Muto restoring their lead in the 64th minute with a glancing header off Koya Yuruki's free kick.

    Yuruki's corner led to their third, five minutes later, Sapporo keeper Kojiro Nakano and the visitors' defenders doing well to block two shots on the line but unable to thwart a close-range effort from Kobe defender Ryuho Kikuchi.

    Yuruki was again the provider for Vissel's fourth, another five minutes later. The midfielder darted down the left before his low cross crept inside the far post via the foot of a Sapporo defender, who was under pressure from substitute Yuya Osako.

    Japan forward Osako, not included in the national team's four home June internationals following a spate of injuries, gave Sapporo further headaches straight from the ensuing kick-off as he stole the ball from substitute Gabriel Xavier. Osako ran clear at the goal before the Brazilian attacker brought him down for a straight red.

    "I'm glad to have changed the tide of a tough game with my goal," said Muto. "We're still in a tough position, but results will come our way if we all play with determination."

    Kobe are four points from safety, while Sapporo's second straight big defeat left them on 20 points. They lost 6-1 Wednesday at home to Kashiwa Reysol.

    Elsewhere, the title race is beginning to heat up as Yokohama F Marinos moved top on 31 points with a 2-0 win away to promoted Jubilo Iwata.

    Kashima Antlers dropped to second on 30 points after Ryoma Watanabe's brace helped FC Tokyo secure a 3-1 home win.

    Two-time defending champions Kawasaki Frontale are third on goal difference after a 1-0 defeat at Kyoto Sanga, losing two straight games for the first time in four seasons.

    Fourth-place Kashiwa won 3-1 at home against Shimizu S-Pulse to move up to 27 points, while Cerezo Osaka are on 26 with a 2-0 win away to Shonan Bellmare.

    Sagan Tosu edged Gamba Osaka 2-1 at home.

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