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Friday, Aug. 17, 2007

Osieck lauds Reds after away victory

Staff writer

Urawa Reds coach Holger Osieck heaped praise on his players after their battling 1-0 win away to Gamba Osaka in the J. League on Wednesday evening.

Striker Yuichiro Nagai crashed in a brilliant shot from the edge of the area just after the hour mark against the run of play to give the visitors all three points in the top of the table clash and trigger wild celebrations among Osieck, assistant Gert Engels and the rest of the Urawa bench.

"It was very important match and we managed to win. Gamba was pretty strong and it was a great match," said Osieck. "My players put in a great performance."

The Reds cut the gap between them and league-leading Gamba to one point after 20 games and will hope to make further ground on Saturday when they play an "away" match against Ventforet Kofu at Tokyo's National Stadium at 6:30 p.m.

Urawa will have to do so, though, without club leading scorer Washington, who continues to receive treatment in Brazil for an injury picked up in the 4-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the start of August.

Osieck was quick to point out the contribution of Washington's replacements.

"We had a speedy offense and the front two (of Nagai and Tatsuya Tanaka) moved well. That produced Nagai's excellent goal and we won the match with it."

Goalscorer Nagai was happy with his link-up play with Tanaka and said the victory gives the team momentum with the second half of the season now in full swing.

"I only heard we were going with two up front (Wednesday morning). I talked with Tanaka about how we should connect with each other. Although I had only one shot in the match I kept going," said Nagai.

"Our defenders played well the whole 90 minutes and we wanted to respond to them by working hard up front. This win over Gamba gives us confidence."

Reds midfielder Makoto Hasebe admitted the Reds were lucky to get all three points against a strong Gamba side which had the run of things for a lot of the match at Expo Stadium.

"There were situations where we could've scored more goals if we had shot better, but Gamba had missed chances in the first half, too, and that helped us. This win is big."

Gamba plays beleaguered Yokohama FC on Saturday. Coach Akira Nishino called for an immediate improvement.

"We need more sharpness and variation in attack," said Nishino. "The Reds defense was solid, especially after we gave up the goal to them. We had some opportunities in the first half and the match could've been different if we had scored in the first half."

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