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Monday, May 8, 2006

Reds outclass Kashima in J. League showdown

Staff writer

SAITAMA -- Shinji Ono and Washington scored two goals apiece as Urawa Reds got their title challenge back on track with a 4-0 thrashing of Kashima Antlers on Sunday.

News photo
Shinji Ono of the Urawa Reds celebrates after scoring against the Kashima Antlers on Sunday.

Ono lashed in a third-minute opener before Brazilian Washington made it two on 17 minutes with a brilliant individual effort in front of a bumper 56,982 crowd at Saitama Stadium.

Japan midfielder Ono made it 3-0 on 46 minutes with a delicious chip that the watching Zico would have been proud of before Washington completed the rout from the penalty spot with three minutes remaining.

The Reds were still smarting after a 2-0 defeat at JEF United Chiba on Wednesday, and they took it out on Paulo Autuori's Antlers with a punishing display on the last day of the J. League before a month-long break for the World Cup. Urawa moved up to second and has 26 points from 12 games. Kawasaki Frontale moved top, one point ahead, after beating Cerezo Osaka 1-0 courtesy of a second-half strike from Marcus.

Gamba Osaka is now third on 25 points, after its 2-0 victory over Ventforet Kofu on Saturday. Antlers are fourth on 22 points. Cerezo is rooted to the bottom of the table with five points after its loss to Frontale.

"We've done well so far, and we are in a good position for when the league restarts after the World Cup break," Reds coach Guido Buchwald said. "Of course, Kawasaki Frontale have done wonderfully well, but we have to play them twice and our fate is in our hands."

Urawa went ahead in rain-sodden Saitama on three minutes after Kashima's Alex Mineiro had to leave the pitch to receive treatment for an injury, the Reds taking full advantage of having the extra man.

Robson Ponte galloped down the right, stretching the Antlers defense, and his cross was swept home by an incoming Ono.

"It was a great ball in from him," Ono said. "All I had to do was tap it home. I'm going to have to thank him for that."

Marcus Tulio Tanaka nearly made it 2-0 three minutes later when he met an inswinging Alex Santos cross with a firm downward header that bounced up on to the bar.

Wave after wave of Urawa attacks were overwhelming a shell-shocked Antlers rearguard, while the visitors were struggling to string two passes together.

Antlers' first chance, though, did come on 16 minutes when Masashi Motoyama flashed an angled header just past the post.

Immediately Urawa came back, and Washington made it 2-0 with a brilliant individual goal.

A sweeping Reds move down the left ended with the ball falling kindly for the Brazilian just inside the area. He rounded 'keeper Hideaki Ozawa and turned inside Atsuto Uchida before crashing the ball home.

The Kashima players, unable to play any worse up to this point, slowly began to find their feet on the slick Saitama surface. Two chances came when Reds 'keeper Norihiro Yamagishi denied Mineiro with a point-blank save before Motoyama misdirected his header when sent clear by Tatsuya Ishikawa.

The visitors, though, were still a defensive shambles, with Nobuhisa Yamada, Robson Ponte and an inspirational Ono cutting through them at will.

Urawa's third came very early into the second half -- and what a goal it was. Ono gathered the ball on the edge of the area, looked up, and sent an exquisite chip with the outside of his foot over a back-pedaling Ozawa.

Ono rushed over to celebrate with boss Buchwald, whose support for the ex-Feyenoord man has never wavered despite concerns over injuries and some patchy early season performances.

"I knew once Ono scored his second -- which was a brilliant effort -- so quickly into the second half that the game was ours," Buchwald said.

Antlers threatened periodically, but were denied by the excellent Yamagashi -- in for the injured Ryota Tsuzuki -- on a number of occasions. And when one Yamagishi save fell kindly for Mineiro on 79 minutes, the Brazilian forward let himself down by wildly dragging his shot wide.

All that was left was for Ono to be substituted to warm applause on 86 minutes, just before Washington was brought down for a penalty kick. The big man picked himself up and crashed the ball into the roof of the net for his 10th league goal.

"We had a lot of chances, but couldn't convert any of them, but we also made a lot of mistakes and it is all about whether the players have the mental toughness," Antlers coach Autuori said. "We lost it mentally today."

Brazilian coach Autuori wasn't looking for excuses, but bemoaned the absence of his injured players.

"We are missing (Atsushi) Yanagisawa and Fernando and with these players we are a much stronger team," Autuori said.

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