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Football: Toya Izumi stunner downs Tosu as Kobe move 2 points clear in J1

Toya Izumi (center, right) celebrates with his Vissel Kobe teammates after scoring the only goal of the game in their 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu in a J-Legaue first-division match at Ekimae Real Estate Stadium in Tosu, Saga Pref. on March 18, 2023. (Kyodo)

TOSU, Saga (Kyodo) -- Toya Izumi struck a superb winner as leaders Vissel Kobe prevailed 1-0 away to Sagan Tosu on Saturday, moving two points clear atop the J-League first division.

    The rookie attacker capped his first J1 start with a maiden goal in the 22nd minute at Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, cutting in from the left and curling an unstoppable shot into the far corner from outside the box via a tiny deflection.

    "I'm really happy my goal got us the win," said the 22-year-old Izumi, who showed good control following a long diagonal ball from center-back Tetsushi Yamakawa in the buildup.

    "We've been building good combinations using his long ball, so that was something I always had in mind. I hope to use the goal as encouragement to score even more."

    After taking their first loss of the season at home to Urawa Reds last weekend, Kobe began Saturday's game strongly with Izumi, who started alongside former Japan internationals Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto in attack, twice sending headers wide before getting on the scoresheet.

    Osako hit the side netting in a one-on-one with opposing keeper Park Il Gyu minutes after the break, while Kobe keeper Daiya Maekawa got a slight touch to Tosu midfielder Taichi Kikuchi's attempt from the left to prevent an equalizer just past the hour mark.

    Osako saw his header from a corner hit the post late, but Kobe held on to move up to 12 points, while Tosu remain on four points following their third defeat.

    Elsewhere, second-place Nagoya Grampus were held to a goalless draw at home to FC Tokyo. Holders Yokohama F Marinos are up to third, level on 10 points with Nagoya, after beating Kashima Antlers 2-1 at home.

    Kyoto Sanga are up to fourth with their third straight win as they came back to thrash winless promoted side Yokohama FC 4-1 away.

    Urawa, who, like Kyoto, began the season with two defeats, also won their third straight match and are up to fifth after coming back to win 2-1 at home against promoted Albirex Niigata, who suffered their first loss.

    Kawasaki Frontale and Cerezo Osaka played out a scoreless stalemate, while Gamba Osaka salvaged a 2-2 draw away to Consadole Sapporo but are still searching for their first win of the season.

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