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Soccer: Osako's injury-time winner lifts Kobe off bottom of table

Yuya Osako, center, of Vissel Kobe strikes the winner in injury time in a J-League first-division match against Shimizu S-Pulse on July 6, 2022, at Noevir Stadium in Kobe, western Japan. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Yuya Osako struck the winner in injury time Wednesday as Vissel Kobe moved from the foot of the J-League first-division standings with a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Shimizu S-Pulse.

    The veteran Japan forward made the breakthrough in the 92nd minute after substituting for skipper Andres Iniesta midway through the second half at Noevir Stadium.

    Registering consecutive J1 wins for the first time this season, Kobe climbed past S-Pulse into 17th in the 18-team table on goal difference.

    The hosts made a bright start when Koya Yuruki volleyed home the opener in the eighth minute, but S-Pulse striker Thiago Santana brought his side back into the contest by poaching a 66th minute equalizer.

    The Brazilian found the net again late in the contest, only for the goal to be wiped off for offside.

    With three vital points on the line, Takayuki Yoshida's men kept pushing forward and were rewarded when Osako stroked home the winner from the left of the area after a miscued clearance sent the ball in his direction.

    "I'm really happy to be able to score in such a vital game," Osako said. "We kept going forward with the belief of the whole team, our manager, and our fans."

    With four wins, five draws and 11 losses, Kobe are 2-0 since replacing Miguel Angel Lotina with Yoshida late last month in the club's third managerial change of the year. They face 16th-place Jubilo Iwata in another crucial six-pointer on Saturday.

    "We're not satisfied as a team and need to try to make it three straight wins in our next game against Jubilo," Osako said.

    Jubilo sit two points above Kobe following a 1-0 loss to Avispa Fukuoka on Wednesday.

    At the other end of the standings, first-place Yokohama F Marinos beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-0, extending their buffer to five points over second-place Kashima Antlers, who drew 3-3 with Cerezo Osaka.

    The scheduled clash between reigning champions Kawasaki Frontale, currently third, and Sagan Tosu was postponed after several members of the Tosu organization tested positive for COVID-19.

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