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Monday, June 18, 2007

Tanaka duo sets pace for Urawa in convincing road victory


Staff writer

A tale of two Tanakas was the storyline for Urawa Reds' 2-0 victory away to FC Tokyo on Sunday. Injury ravaged striker Tatsuya Tanaka marked his first league appearance of the season with a confidence-boosting goal at the beginning and central defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka returned from a hamstring problem only to be carried off in obvious discomfort with a twisted ankle near the end.

News photo
Urawa Reds forwards Washington (center) and Tatsuya Tanaka (third from left) react for an own goal by FC Tokyo during Sunday's J. League match at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, Tokyo. The Reds won 2-0. KYODO PHOTO

In between was a second half own goal from Lucas and an assured display from the Reds, who would have been forgiven for a more lackluster outing after the inconvenience of traveling to China for the A3 Champions Cup last week. The Saitama side reclaimed second position with 27 points and kept tabs on leaders Gamba Osaka, seven points better off. FC Tokyo sits in 13th place.

Reds coach Holger Osieck reserved particular praise for the diminutive Tatsuya Tanaka, slowly making his way back from a long-term ankle injury that has hampered the blossoming of his undoubted potential. Tanaka played two full games in China to convince the German manager he was again ready for the rigors of the J. League.

"He definitely gained a lot from the tournament in China, particularly the confidence and he started off very well today," said Osieck. "I think what is important is he is not afraid. After such an injury if you get kicked in the ankle you normally hesitate but he got kicked, chopped, whatever, but he shook it off and played on."

Osieck also was pleased with the team's response to last week's tricky road trip.

"It was a very hard fought victory. We had to work a lot after China and we are very pleased we got everything together today to win it. FC Tokyo over the last couple of weeks have made some progress and won some points — it's not the team that started the season, so it wasn't an easy one today and so I have to give credit to my players."

Tulio, making his first league appearance since May 6, had looked rock solid alongside Keisuke Tsuboi in defense and was cute with his distribution before his worrisome breakdown. It wasn't immediately clear how serious the injury was.

The atmosphere at kickoff was electric as the huge contingent of Urawa fans among the 38,439 crowd drowned out the FC Tokyo supporters' pre-match rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" with a cacophony of boos, before both the home and away supporters competed in trying to raise the Ajinomoto Stadium roof with a relentless mishmash of songs. The Reds fans edged that particular contest.

And it was the Reds who quickly edged ahead on the pitch — with the first goal coming easily on four minutes. Washington was given a criminal amount of time to advance forward toward the FC Tokyo area before lashing in a drive Yoichi Doi could only parry straight back into the path of the Brazilian. The burly striker took an unnecessary — and weak — touch, but the ball rolled fortuitously into the path of Tanaka, whose left-foot shot trickled through the arms of the diving Doi.

That was the cue for some exuberant celebrations from Tanaka, who leapt into Washington's arms.

"I haven't played for a while so I wanted to play harder in my first game back," said Tanaka. "I had a few misses today so I need to polish my skills but I want more playing time."

And his reaction to the goal?

"Well, what do you expect? It was my first goal in ages!"

It was pretty breathless stuff for the next few minutes after the opener as the Reds fairly tore into the retreating home team. Takahito Soma got to the byline well and dinked a perfect cross on to the head of Washington, but the Brazilian's powder-puff effort didn't do the left wing back's work justice.

Meanwhile, Tanaka was proving to be an annoyance for the FC Tokyo backline, his willingness to run proving the striker to be a worthy foil to the more statuesque Washington.

Not that Washington wasn't proving a nuisance for the opponents. Or his own teammates for that matter. In one attack, the Brazilian tried to bundle his way through in typical head down style — seemingly not paying the blindest bit of attention to those around him. That earned him a scolding from compatriot Robson Ponte, with the tiny Tanaka receiving a shove from his hulking strike partner when he tried to keep the two warring teammates apart.

But for all Urawa's early pressure, the last 20 minutes of the first period and the early stages of the second was forgettable stuff, FC Tokyo limited to a rogue's gallery of gruesome efforts that ballooned over or sliced wide of the goal.

Reds needed another goal, though, to kill off the game and it came on 65 minutes, courtesy of an own goal. Japan international Yuki Abe headed toward goal from a Ponte corner and the ball hit the unfortunate Lucas before it bobbled into the net.

Osim safe for now

By GUS FIELDING

Kyodo News CHIBA — Amar Osim earned a stay of execution after goals from Seiichiro Maki and Naotake Hanyu gave troubled JEF United Chiba a thrilling 3-2 win over fellow strugglers Ventforet Kofu on Sunday.

Japan striker Maki twice put Chiba in front at Fukuda Denshi Arena but spurned a glorious chance to bag a hat-trick when he blazed a penalty over the bar early in the second period.

However, the bustling forward capped a turbo-charged performance by instigating the move which led to Hanyu's 71st-minute winner and only Chiba's third league win of the season.

Chiba came into Sunday's match having lost their last six league and cup games in a row and were without a victory since the 1-0 win at home to Omiya Ardija on April 21.

And Osim was put under further pressure when Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov earlier this week launched an astonishing attack on his manager and threatened to quit unless Chiba gave him his walking papers.

Chiba remained second from bottom on 13 points from 15 games, one behind Kofu.



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