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Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009

Rafael's equalizer spoils chance of JEF victory

Staff writer

SAITAMA — JEF United Chiba missed a chance to bolster their bid for first-division survival by conceding a second-half equalizer to fellow strugglers Omiya Ardija in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.

News photo
Get out of the way: Sanfrecce midfielder Mikic (left) and Urawa forward Edmilson battle for the ball during Saturday's match at Hiroshima Big Arch. Host Hiroshima defeated Reds 2-1. KYODO PHOTO

JEF went into the match at Nack 5 Stadium in 16th place in the 18-team division — having taken only a solitary point from its previous five games — and a first-half header from Brazilian striker Neto Baiano gave the Chiba side hope on a night when second-from-bottom Kashiwa Reysol drew 1-1 with Yokohama F. Marinos.

But an equalizer from Omiya's Rafael midway through the second half checked JEF's momentum, leaving the club five points adrift with manager Atsuhiko Ejiri still looking for his first win since taking over from Alex Miller late last month.

"It was a tough game and our second in the space of a week, but we tried to challenge and cover and cut them off in midfield," Ejiri said. "We still need a little more movement in the team, but we kept fighting until the end. Now we just have to get back to training and put in the hard work."

JEF escaped the drop in dramatic circumstances last season, staging an against-the-odds comeback to beat FC Tokyo on the final day.

Defender Eddy Bosnar is in no hurry to repeat the experience.

"I don't think it was a useful experience because it makes you go crazy with the stress," he said. "If we stay calm, then we can stay in the league."

Mato Neretljak came close to giving Omiya the lead as the home side turned up the early pressure, but after weathering the storm, JEF suddenly found itself in front.

Keisuke Ota swung in a cross from deep on the right, and Baiano rose above his marker to head in his first goal since joining from Vitoria last month.

But Omiya began the second half strongly, and Rafael made the improvement count in the 63rd minute. The Brazilian picked up the ball on the left wing, and, after turning defender Shohei Ikeda inside out, calmly slotted the ball through goalkeeper Ryo Kushino's legs for the equalizer.

Referee Masayoshi Okada refused to entertain calls for a penalty after JEF's Masaki Chugo fell in the box in a frantic finale, and an Ota goal ruled out for offside further frustrated the visitors.

"We didn't play so badly, but we gave away a stupid goal on the counter and you can't do that," Bosnar said. "In the end we're not happy with a point, but it's hard to win 1-0 away. We have to start winning games at home. In the next two games we really have to get some points on the board."

Elsewhere in the J. League, Urawa Reds' season reached a new nadir with a 2-1 loss at Sanfrecce Hiroshima that consigned the Saitama side to its sixth league defeat in a row.

Shimizu S-Pulse claimed local bragging rights with a 5-1 demolition of Shizuoka rivals Jubilo Iwata, while Kyoto Sanga came from behind to beat Albirex Niigata 2-1.

Schalke at top

Berlin (AP) Schalke played to 0-0 in Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Friday to remain undefeated under new coach Felix Magath despite a poor performance.

After three games, Schalke has seven points and leads the standings heading into the weekend. Defending champion Wolfsburg, which hosts Hamburger SV on Sunday, is the only other team to have won its first two games.

Magath coached Wolfsburg to its first Bundesliga title last season before leaving to join Schalke, which has not won the championship in 51 years.

Hoffenheim, one of the surprise teams in its top division debut last season, still hasn't won this season. It had more chances in the second half but could not find the target, and has two draws form three games and only two points.

Schalke mainly defended and was lucky to escape with a draw in a match that saw the teams split evenly the eight yellow cards issued.

Kyrgiakos deal done

LIVERPOOL , England (AP) Liverpool has completed the signing of Sotiris Kyrgiakos on a two-year deal after the Greece center-back passed his medical examination.

The Reds have an option to extend the 30-year-old Kyrgiakos' spell at Anfield by a further year.

The Premier League club paid AEK Athens a reported £1.5 million ($2.5 million).

The 192-cm Kyrgiakos has made 50 appearances for Greece, but missed the 2004 European Championship triumph because of an injury.

Osorio quits

SECAUCUS , N.J. (AP) New York Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio resigned Friday and was replaced for the rest of the season by assistant coach Richie Williams.

Less than a year after playing for the Major League Soccer championship, the Red Bulls have the worst record in the league at 2-16-4.

The Red Bulls said a search for a new head coach would begin immediately.

"It has been a difficult season for Juan Carlos and he felt that it was in the best interest of the team to step aside," Red Bulls managing director Erik Stover said. "I want to personally thank Juan Carlos for his efforts with the Red Bulls organization. It was under his leadership last season that the team won the Western Conference Championship and reached the MLS Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. We wish him well in his future endeavors."

Osorio apologized to Red Bulls fans for the team's play this season.

"I want to thank the players for their hard work," Osorio said. "I would also like to thank the club for the opportunity to coach the team for the past two seasons."

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