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Monday, April 16, 2007

Reds move into 1st place


Staff writer

Urawa Reds moved to the top of the J. League after first-half goals from Washington and Shinji Ono gave the Saitama outfit a straightforward 2-0 victory over Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday in front of 35,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium.

News photo
Urawa Reds midfielder Shinji Ono celebrates scoring his team's second goal in the 38th minute during Sunday's J. League first-division match against Kashiwa Reysol at National Stadium in Tokyo. Reds won 2-0. KYODO PHOTO

Washington's diving header on 27 minutes and Ono's side-foot finish 11 minutes later were just reward for the Reds after a solid period of pressure in the latter stages of the opening period. With the game wrapped up, the second half wasn't pretty to look at as Urawa easily repelled the limp Reysol attack.

The victory gave Urawa 14 points after six games and knocked Reysol off the summit after a surprise start to the season had seen them win four and draw one before coming up against Holger Osieck's formidable side, in what was a home fixture for the Chiba outfit.

"We were able to score in the first half, which set the tone for the rest of the game," said Reds coach Osieck.

"We changed our formation in the second half and put in some new players and created a stronger midfield. We did this to lessen the chances of conceding a goal. It seemed to work well because we defended our lead better.

"Our team was tired at the end but I don't think there is a single team who can keep up attacking football for 90 minutes straight."

Nobuhiro Ishizaki's men were at a disadvantage from the very beginning, having lost Tadanari Lee and top scorer Minoru Suganuma to the Japan Under-22 squad, which left Japan to play Wednesday's Olympic qualifier against Syria.

In comparison, the Reds were top heavy with quality up front.

The mere presence of Washington on the team sheet gives teams the shivers, but the Brazilian can sometimes blow hot and cold. He was the former Sunday, a formidable figure who proved a nightmare for the Reysol backline to deal with.

"Urawa has a very strong attack and I think we do well up front, but not to the same degree. With players like Washington, my players were intimidated," said Reysol coach Ishizaki.

"We would have had a stronger attack but two of my players are with the Under-22 team."

Washington's fellow striker, Yuichiro Nagai, was proving to be an able partner, flitting to and fro to the consternation of a defense already overstretched in dealing with the Brazilian battering ram.

Nagai and Washington linked up beautifully for the first, the Japanese striker's endeavor down the right being rewarded when he got to the byline, turned and clipped the ball over for a diving Washington to connect with on a header from close range.

Ono doubled the lead when the ball broke loose for him after a Makoto Hasebe pass and, finding himself on the edge of the Reysol area, the former Feyenoord midfielder kept his composure to place the ball past 'keeper Yuta Minami.

The Reds were comfortably in control and looked certain to add a third before the break.

In one instance, Reysol contrived to keep the ball out as Marcus Tulio Tanaka, then Washington were denied as the ball pinballed around the Kashiwa area.

Tulio took exception to a challenge in that particular attack and got a yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.

Perhaps mindful of this, Kashiwa forward Franca flung himself to the ground when next challenged by the Urawa defender, and the Reds fans drew their breath as the referee reached for his pocket. Thankfully, Hajime Matsuo saw sense and gave Franca a yellow card for his disgraceful theatrics.

The Reds had the game wrapped up at halftime and the second half suffered as a consequence.

Reysol had much more of the possession as the game dragged on, but their shots were high and wide of Ryota Tsuzuki's goal.

Substitute Tatsuya Yazawa went closest for Reysol when his 25-meter shot stung the palms of Tsuzuki, the ball ricocheting up in the air and for a moment looking as though it would bounce down into the empty net. Instead, the ball landed harmlessly on the top of the goal and with it went Reysol's last chance of getting anything out of a game that was a lost cause from early on.



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