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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Takahara notches first goal of season

Staff writer

SAITAMA — Naohiro Takahara scored his first goal of the J. League season to help Urawa Reds get back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Vissel Kobe on Saturday.

Edmilson took just three minutes to open the scoring for an Urawa side looking to bounce back from last week's dismal loss to Yokohama F. Marinos, but the biggest cheer was reserved for Takahara's strike two minutes before halftime.

The former international striker has looked persistently out of sorts since moving from Eintracht Frankfurt at the beginning of the 2008 season, but his crisp drive from the edge of the area was just reward for an industrious and confident performance at Komaba Stadium.

"It was very difficult for him because in all the newspapers they talked about his salary, and the previous manager said he could not play together with Edmilson," Reds manager Volker Finke said after the game.

"His mentality was in very bad condition, and perhaps it is possible that now is the moment that he comes back. But it is not sure. It's true that this season in many games he wasn't at a high level.

"Now I think he is improving step by step, and I'm happy with this. Watch and wait and see."

Urawa took control right from the first whistle, and it was no surprise when Edmilson opened the scoring. Naoki Yamada cushioned a header into the path of Hajime Hosogai, whose shot across goal was on its way wide until the Brazilian slid in to direct it into the net.

Yoshito Okubo blazed over minutes later with Reds goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki lying prone on the ground, but it was one of the few chances Vissel managed to create in a first half dominated by the home side.

Yamada forced a fingertip save from Kobe 'keeper Tatsuya Enomoto in the 40th minute, shortly before Takahara went one better. Receiving a square pass from Edmilson just outside the box, the 30-year-old rolled the ball onto his left foot before cracking the ball past Enomoto for Urawa's second.

Genki Haraguchi missed a one-on-one with Enomoto after wriggling free of Ryuhei Niwa midway through the second half, but Vissel substitute Hiroki Kishida was guilty of the same profligacy at the other end as Tsuzuki gobbled up the ball at his feet in the 80th minute.

Okubo chipped wide as Kobe made one final push, and a goal ruled out for handball further compounded the international striker's misery in his second game since returning from German champion Wolfsburg last week.

"Last week was a very bad game against Yokohama and I was looking for a reaction from the players," Finke said. "It was important to play well and to create chances, and they did that."

Elsewhere in the J. League, Kashiwa Reysol twice came from behind against Jubilo Iwata before Tadanari Lee struck in the final minute to give Kashiwa a 3-2 win, while Kyoto Sanga beat Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 to end Sanfrecce's run of three consecutive victories.

Yoshihito Fujita scored a brace to lead Omiya Ardija past JEF United Chiba 2-0, while in the late game FC Tokyo beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1.

League-leaders Kashima Antlers play bottom-of-the-table Oita Trinita on Sunday, while third-place Albirex Niigata take on Nagoya Grampus. Kawasaki Frontale are in action against Montedio Yamagata, while Marinos play Gamba Osaka.

Hansson selected

JOHANNESBURG (AP) Martin Hansson of Sweden will be the referee Sunday for the Confederations Cup final between the United States and Brazil.

Hansson will be joined by linesmen Henrik Andren and Fredrik Nilsson, also from Sweden, for the match at Ellis Park, FIFA said Saturday. Benito Archundia of Mexico will be the fourth official.

Matthew Breeze of Australia will be in charge of Sunday's third-place match in Rustenburg between Spain and South Africa. Australian linesmen Matthew Cream and Ben Wilson will join Breeze, and Coffi Codjia of Benin will be the fourth official.

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