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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Urawa gets back on right track after trip abroad


Staff writer

With his team in second place in the J. League and at the quarterfinal stage of the AFC Champions League, it would appear things are looking rosy for Holger Osieck and Urawa Reds.

A 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe at Komaba Stadium on Wednesday evening, following on from a win away to FC Tokyo by the same scoreline at the weekend, means Urawa sits five points behind Gamba Osaka on 30 points with a game in hand after the leaders could only draw 0-0 against Yokohama F. Marinos.

News photo
Urawa Reds forward Tatsuya Tanaka battles Vissel Kobe goalkeeper Tatsuya Enomoto during their J. League first-division match on Wednesday at Saitama Stadium 2002. Reds won 2-0. KYODO PHOTO

After a disappointing May which yielded four 1-1 draws and a lone victory in the league, league champions Urawa had to head to China two weeks ago to take part in the much-derided A3 Mazda Champions Cup — and the results didn't improve there as coach Osieck tinkered with his lineups in three matches that brought two losses.

Before the tournament, Osieck said he wasn't happy about the disruption to Reds' season, but the German coach admitted to The Japan Times that the trip had been a blessing in disguise — and two straight victories since returning bears testament to this.

"It was definitely some extra load on the players but on the other hand some players definitely did benefit from it, like Tatsuya Tanaka, who played two full games. . .Marcus Tulio Tanaka came back, Takahito Soma got back into the team, Makoto Hasebe got back into the team, so some individuals really benefited from this tournament," Oseick said.

"At first I wasn't really in favor but how things turned out it was a very useful experience. Thinking retrospectively, I was very happy we went there."

Osieck believes it's not just on the domestic front where the Reds have benefited. With one eye on Urawa's Champions League quarterfinal clash against last year's winners Chonbuk Motors, the German said the trip to China was invaluable experience.

"It's not just individuals who gained a lot from it but the team in total gained a lot of experience for what we have to expect on the road in the Champions League," said Osieck, whose team hosts the first game of a two-legged tie against the South Koreans on Sept. 19.

"Korea can not be a nice place for Japanese people (to visit), so it could be like China. It's not a Sunday afternoon walk — I'll tell you that, it's going to be a pretty tough game," said Osieck.

"And you cannot be pleased with the reigning champions —they must be pretty good. But if we want to reach our target we are going to have to play anybody. If we are prepared to go ready for the challenge, and ready to accept the aggressiveness of the environment it should be OK."

In Urawa's victory over Vissel on Wednesday, Tulio shrugged off the twisted ankle he suffered against FC Tokyo on Sunday to open the scoring for the home side on 39 minutes with a header off a Robson Ponte corner. Brazilian Ponte killed off the game on the stroke of halftime with a penalty.

In other games, Gamba drew with Marinos at Mitsuzawa Stadium, which left Yokohama in ninth position. Kashima Antlers made third place their own on 27 points with a 1-0 victory away to Kashiwa Reysol.

Albirex Niigata sits in fourth on 26 points after beating FC Yokohama 3-1, while Kawasaki Frontale could only draw 1-1 away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima and sits in fifth one point behind.

Meanwhile, under-fire JEF United boss Amar Osim had Satoru Yamagishi to thank as his goal gave the Chiba side a 1-0 win away to Oita Trinita.



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