J-League title hopefuls Yokohama F Marinos need to "just keep playing" their football, manager Ange Postecoglou said Saturday after his side moved to the top of the table with a 1-0 win over Matsumoto Yamaga.
Teruhito Nakagawa struck the winner barely a minute into the clash at Sunpro Alwin stadium, running unchecked from the right wing before beating Matsumoto keeper Tatsuya Morita with a curling shot from the top of the box.
With just two games remaining, Postecoglou's men claimed top spot for the first time this season after title rivals FC Tokyo were held to a 1-1 draw by relegation-threatened Shonan Bellmare.
Third-place Kashima Antlers, meanwhile, were unable to gain ground following a scoreless draw away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Postecoglou, who could make history as the first Australian manager to win the J-League title, had a simple message for his players going into the last two games of the season.
"Just keep playing our football, that's what's got us to here," the former Socceroos boss said.
With more than 70 percent of possession, Marinos pressed for more goals but were denied by a dogged defensive performance from second-to-last Matsumoto, who face relegation after just one season back in the top flight.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game, but we kept our discipline and the players were fantastic. They worked hard and we deserved the three points," said Postecoglou, who is trying to steer Marinos to their first J1 crown since 2004.
"It's not easy coming here. They put a lot of players behind the ball, even when they go 1-0 down, and we had to be patient."
The visitors almost doubled the lead in the 64th minute when a long-range shot from Takahiro Ogihara slammed into the crossbar off a defender. Ogihara went close again soon after, forcing a diving save from Morita with a tightly angled shot from the left.
Marinos, who are unbeaten in the league since Aug. 17, visit two-time reigning champions Kawasaki Frontale next Saturday before hosting FC Tokyo in the last game on Dec. 7 in a clash which could effectively serve as a winner-takes-all final.
"We look forward to a big game next week against Kawasaki," Postecoglou said. "They're a fantastic team and we look forward to that challenge."
At a wet and windy Ajinomoto Stadium, Bellmare looked set to upset FC Tokyo thanks to Temma Matsuda's first-half opener, but Masato Morishige salvaged a draw with a stunning long-range equalizer in the 94th minute.
FC Tokyo, who are chasing their first-ever J1 title, host Urawa Reds next Saturday.
In other first division action, substitute Daigo Araki scored in the 97th minute to give visiting Jubilo Iwata a 2-1 win over Consadole Sapporo.
At Panasonic Stadium Suita, Gamba Osaka beat Vegalta Sendai 2-0 on second-half goals from Takashi Usami and Ademilson.
Vissel Kobe defeated visiting Cerezo Osaka 1-0 with a late winner from Kyogo Furuhashi, while Junior Dutra struck in the 88th minute to snatch a 1-1 draw for Shimizu S-Pulse against visiting Oita Trinita.
Nagoya Grampus and Sagan Tosu ended their clash at Toyota Stadium scoreless.