First-stage winners Urawa Reds were held to a goalless draw at unfashionable Montedio Yamagata on Wednesday but still extended their unbeaten J-League run this season to 19 games.
While Urawa’s attempts to break down a defensive-minded home side were being frustrated, two-time champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima registered the day’s biggest score with a 6-0 rout over Matsumoto Yamaga to go top after two second-stage games.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima lead the pack
Hiroshima, back-to-back Japanese champions in 2012 and 2013, have six points from two matches, two clear of a chasing pack of six teams, including Urawa.
Midfielder Kosei Shibasaki struck twice for Hiroshima, who were set on their way by a pair of own goals in a game notable for some calamitous defending from the visitors.
FC Tokyo win first points after Yoshinori Muto departure
FC Tokyo showed there was life after Yoshinori Muto as they picked up their first points since selling the Japan striker to German side Mainz with a 3-1 home win over Albirex Niigata.
Nagoya Grampus upset 2014 champions and domestic treble winners Gamba Osaka thanks to a Kengo Kawamata winner 10 minutes from time.
Southern Japanese side Sagan Tosu finished 1-1 at home to Kawasaki Frontale while once-mighty Kashima Antlers were held to a goalless stalemate by lowly Shimizu S-Pulse.
Yokohama F-Marinos, part-owned by Manchester City, continued to struggle as they were beaten 1-0 by visiting Kashiwa Reysol to slip to 14th in the first division standings.