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Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006

Kurobe uses head in ho-hum victory


Staff writer

SAITAMA -- Teruaki Kurobe scored with a diving header on 88 minutes to give Urawa Reds a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in a lackluster friendly at Saitama Stadium on Monday.

News photo
Bayern Munich forward Lukas Podolski (center) battles Urawa Reds midfielder Keita Suzuki (13) for the ball during their exhibition match at Saitama Stadium on Monday. The Reds won 1-0. KYODO PHOTO

Masayuki Okano beat Bastian Schweinsteiger on the right and crossed for 28-year-old striker Kurobe, who powered in his header from close-range to give the 29,019 crowd something to cheer about at the end of what amounted to little more than a kick-about.

Reds coach Guido Buchwald was happy his players rose to the occasion against the crack German outfit, but said both teams struggled with tiredness in the latter stages.

"We had a lot of players missing today so I was very happy with the result," Buchwald said. "The German League is very strong, and Bayern Munich are a top-class team with a lot of players from the World Cup -- not just German players but players like (Owen) Hargreaves."

"We were tired because we played on Saturday and Bayern were tired because they only arrived in Japan yesterday, which had an effect."

Bayern coach Felix Magath was impressed by the team compatriot Buchwald has put together.

"It was a good match today between the two teams and I want to congratulate Guido (Buchwald) for forming such a good side as Urawa's," Magath said. "They played a great match."

With the Reds in the middle of their J. League campaign and the doctor's notes beginning to pile up on Buchwald's table, it was a makeshift side that took to the field against a Bayern XI close to full strength in the only match of their money-spinning visit to Japan.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Makoto Hasebe, Robson Ponte, Washington and Tatsuya Tanaka were all missing for Urawa, and rare starts were given to Brazilian Nene and goalscorer Kurobe.

Reigning German League champion Bayern's new season is just around the corner, and it began the game with new signing Lukas Podolski making his debut alongside Philipp Lahm and Schweinsteiger, all three key players in their country's epic run to the World Cup semifinals this summer.

Oliver Kahn, a big draw in Japan who played second fiddle to Arsenal's Jens Lehmann on Germany's World Cup team, also started but was rarely troubled before being replaced at halftime.

The home fans kept themselves entertained in the first half by lustily booing Schweinsteiger whenever he touched the ball.

It was the midfielder's horror tackle on Akira Kaji in the World Cup warmup between Germany and Japan that forced the Gamba Osaka defender to miss the first game of the tournament against Australia.

The training ground pace of the match, though, kept the crowd quiet for much of the opening period, the fans perking up only when Shinji Ono went close, curling an exquisite left-shot past the static Kahn and off the inside of the post.

Dutch striker Roy Makaay then tested Ryota Tsuzuki with a swirling half-volley from the edge of the area that the Urawa 'keeper did well to tip over.

It was all change at halftime as Bayern brought on four substitutes while Urawa made three changes, but the freshening up of the two sides did little to raise the excitement level.

Podolski, signed from FC Cologne, nearly put the visitors ahead with a well-angled header 10 minutes into the second half, but substitute 'keeper Norihiro Yamagishi got down quickly and brilliantly turned the ball around the post.

Halftime introduction Takahito Soma, perhaps the brightest of both sets of players, started to give the Germans trouble down their right side as the match progressed, but when the goal finally came, it was from Urawa's right.

The Reds fans had even more reason to cheer when watching the replay of Kurobe's excellent headed effort, when it emerged that the 34-year-old Okano was shown to have coasted past their target of abuse for the evening -- Schweinsteiger -- before providing the winning cross.



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