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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Edmilson-led Reds edge JEF, ascend to top of J. League

Staff writer

CHIBA — Urawa Reds moved into first place in the J. League on Saturday as a second-half Edmilson goal led the Saitama side past JEF United Chiba for its fourth 1-0 win in a row.

News photo
Up in the air: JEF United Chiba defender Bosnar (left) tries to take control of the ball from Urawa Reds forward Edmilson during their J. League match on Saturday at Fukuda Denshi Arena. Reds won 1-0. KYODO PHOTO

The Brazilian's header from a cross by 18-year-old Naoki Yamada was one of few chances for either side at a rain-lashed Fukuda Denshi Arena, but with Kashima Antlers drawing 1-1 with Montedio Yamagata, it was enough to send Reds top for the first time since August.

Urawa manager Volker Finke made no apology for his side's solid, unflashy rise back to the summit, but nonetheless urged his players to score more goals.

"I am an Italian coach," the German joked after the game. "Today (Robson) Ponte should have scored a second goal, but in our other games there were seven, eight, nine, 10 big chances. The game is coming at a good level but the scoring is not there.

"It needs more. You work for the defense and then you think about scoring. I think these 1-0 results are a result of a very offensive defense, so it is not really the Italian way."

A constant downpour made life difficult for both teams, but that alone could not account for a ragged first half in which neither side managed to register a single attempt on target.

Reds lacked the imagination to muster any more than a few tentative jabs, and Genki Haraguchi completely miscontrolled a Ponte through-ball when the first clear chance emerged seconds after the restart.

But Edmilson made no such mistake when Yamada swung in a cross toward the back post in the 59th minute, heading the ball past Masahiro Okamoto for what turned out to be the only goal of the game.

"It was very evenly matched game with not a lot of strikes at goal," JEF manager Alex Miller said.

"I think if you look at it, overall our goalkeeper has not had one save — he's lost a goal from a cross. I don't think their goalkeeper had a save either.

"The two teams were canceling out each other and the most important thing was our final pass wasn't good enough. We never got the ball quick enough."

Urawa teenagers Yamada and Haraguchi again looked comfortable despite having only a handful of first-team appearances under their belts, but Finke had special words of praise for the veterans who have had to adapt to his methods since taking over at the start of the season.

"I'm happy that the old players are following what we do in training," he said.

"They enjoy it and they are very happy with it. With the mix of young and old players we are on the way.

"It is very difficult for some of them because we had a lot of running in training, and it was a team that didn't have this before. I always try to push the old players the same as the young players."

Albirex Niigata also leapfrogged Antlers into second place after Marcio Richardes gave his side a 1-0 away win over Omiya Ardija.

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