By Dan Orlowitz
|THE WEEKEND STORIES
As the J-League race continued to tighten, Vegalta Sendai returned to first place through a 2-2 draw against Yokohama F. Marinos. Rivals Sanfrecce seemed poised to retain their own lead, but surrendered two late goals to S-Pulse in a 2-1 defeat.
In Saitama, the Reds were in prime position to gain ground on the leaders after creating a 2-0 lead against FC Tokyo, but settled for the draw after surrendering two goals in the second half. Defending champs Reysol also failed to capitalise, settling for a 1-1 draw at lowly Albirex.
The weekend treated both Osakan teams well, with Gamba returnee Leandro sparking a 3-1 win over Ardija with his double, while Cerezo cruised to a 4-0 shutout of Consadole Sapporo.
Nagoya Grampus did just fine without manager Dragan 'Pixy' Stojkovic, who recieved a one-match touchline ban following his ejection from last weekend's shock upset by Consadole. The 2010 champions rode Marcus Tulio Tanaka's four-goal performance to a 5-1 win over Vissel Kobe.
|THE STANDINGS | Top Four|
|PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
Marcus Tulio Tanaka
While it's hardly uncommon for Japanese centre-backs to contribute on the attack, the 31-year-old's quartet of goals in Grampus' 5-1 win against Vissel was unprecedented. Tanaka became the first defensive player in the history of the league to record such a haul, and helped his side rise up to fifth place, within three points of the top three.
|QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND|
"Frankly I'm happy, but I've already put it behind me. We have to prepare for what's next."
-Gamba striker Leandro on his first goals since re-joining his former club in July
"Some people might get mad at me for saying this but I'm supporting Japan over Brazil."
-Brazil-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka on his country's Olympic progress.
"I wish Matsu was here to celebrate that goal with us."
-Yokohama F. Marinos captain Shunsuke Nakamura after scoring on the one-year anniversary of Japan international Naoki Matsuda's death
|ODDS & ENDS
Cerezo recorded their 100th home win in J1 with their 4-0 victory over Consadole.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Hisato Sato recorded his 100th J1 goal with the club in their 2-1 loss to S-Pulse.