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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reds hold league-leading Vegalta to scoreless draw


SAITAMA — Vegalta Sendai maintained their two-point cushion at the top of the table as the J.League leaders drew 0-0 at Urawa Reds on Saturday.

News photo
Here it comes: Urawa's Mitsuru Nagata (left) and Sendai's Takayuki Nakahara vie for the ball during Saturday's J.League match in Saitama. Reds and Vegalta settled for a 0-0 draw. KYODO

Makoto Teguramori's men managed to pick up a point from a drab affair against the former Asian champions, improving to 31 points from 15 games.

Vegalta were able to hold on to first after second-place Sanfrecce Hiroshima were also held to a goalless draw by Ardija in Omiya. Reds, in third, remained five points off the pace.

Fourth-place Kawasaki Frontale also drew 0-0 with Yokohama F.Marinos at Todoroki.

"With Reds having climbed up to third, we wanted to put on a show that reflected two of the best teams in the league," Teguramori said. "I just didn't think Reds would be so defensive playing at their home."

"Sometimes when two good teams play, they cancel each other out," Urawa coach Mihailo Petrovic said. "It happens in football from time to time."

Sendai, which hosts Petrovic's old team Hiroshima next weekend, has never won at Saitama but Teguramori was happy to see his players making progress.

"A point away to Reds isn't bad," the manager said. "Today was good practice for Sanfrecce next week, which is the game we really need three points from."

"I think after the season we had last year, the boys know firsthand now that we can't defend our way to a title in J1," he said, referring to their finishing fifth in 2011.

"If you want to win, you've got to attack at some point."

Sendai had the better first half at Saitama Stadium though not by much as both sides struggled over the last third of the pitch.

Vegalta missed their top scorer Wilson, who was suspended on yellow cards and whose finishing touch up front was sorely missed on a night when the visitors were wildly inaccurate.

Reds emerged as 1-0 home winners when they met in March in the Nabisco Cup, but started slow and stayed slow on Saturday until they woke up at the intermission.

Urawa came out determined for the second half, Marcio Richardes igniting the crowd with a rocket of a strike off the right-hand post in the 46th minute.

The hosts again near-missed one minute to the hour when Tsukasa Umesaki forced Takuto Hayashi to push a close-range header off the bar, denying the former Japanese international his second goal of the season.

But it was as close as either would get as the teams settled for a share of the spoils.

Elsewhere in J1, FC Tokyo won for the fourth time in six games as Ariajasuru Hasegawa and Lucas struck in the second half of a 2-0 win at home to Cerezo Osaka.

Champions Kashiwa Reysol barely avoided defeat as defender Naoya Kondo leveled in the 95th minute for Nelsinho's side in a 1-1 home draw with Kashima Antlers.

S-Pulse are now winless over their last five after allowing Sagan Tosu to snatch a 1-1 draw in Shimizu, Kei Ikeda equalizing in the 56th minute for the visitors.

Nagoya Grampus moved within eight points of Sendai with a 2-0 win at home over Jubilo Iwata while Vissel beat Albirex Niigata 1-0 in Kobe for their second victory in a row.

In the only afternoon kickoff, Gamba Osaka ended a six-game winless skid with a much-needed 4-0 away victory over fellow relegation battlers Consadole Sapporo.

The goals flowed from the first half for Gamba, who went in front in the 16th minute through Paulinho before Shu Kurata and Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo tripled the visitors' lead by the break.

Takuya Takei capped the scoring in the 93rd minute to send last-place Sapporo to its sixth straight defeat.

Consadole have just four points from 15 matches, while Gamba moved up to 16th and within four points of safety after Omiya's draw with Hiroshima.

Kagawa back from Old Stafford


NARITA, Chiba Pref. — Manchester United's newest recruit Shinji Kagawa returned to Japan on Saturday after completing his high-profile move to the Premier League powerhouse from Borussia Dortmund, describing his first Old Trafford experience as unforgettable.

"I was shown around the stadium and was really excited. I was thinking about all the tough battles about to start," the Japan midfielder Kagawa told a news conference at Narita airport after arriving back from a grueling trip to England. "It was a day I will never forget."

"The organization is fantastic. To be honest, I was moved thinking about being able to play on a pitch like that for a home stadium. At the same time I'm thinking 'I want to play here.' "

He added, "While playing for Dortmund I felt the allure of the Premier League. I really wanted to give it a shot if I got the chance."

Kagawa on Friday signed a four-year contract with United for an undisclosed fee. The 23-year-old, who had agreed to move from German champions Dortmund to United earlier this month, passed a medical and obtained a work permit the same day.

Although no figures have been released, German sports magazine Kicker reported that Friday the transfer was for ?15 million.

"I wasn't prepared to move on the cheap. I wanted to go provided I was held in high regard," said Kagawa. "I made my decision after hearing how much the club rated me."

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