Urawa Reds 2-3 Yokohama F Marinos
National coach Alberto Zaccheroni watched on as Yokohama F Marinos emerged victorious from an eventful contest in Saitama, the visitors coming from 2-1 down to claim three points at the death.
A tentative and deferential Urawa side emerged from the debris of their 4-0 mauling at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale last week, allowing Marinos to settle into their familiar passing game and establish the early pattern of play.
The effervescent Manabu Saito, named this week in the Japan squad for the East Asian Cup, scampered productively down both flanks in the opening period. Marquinhos simply stepped into the space vacated by Makino during his repeated incursions into midfield and waited for the ball to arrive.
In the 11th minute the ex-Cologne defender failed to intercept Saito’s pass out wide and Shingo Hyodo was left with time and space to pick out the Brazilian marksman, who evaded Nagata and Hirakawa to head his tenth of the season.
The goal roused the home side from their slumber and a series of robust challenges disrupted the visitors fluidity, but resulted in cautions for Haraguchi and Umesaki. As Urawa gained a foothold, it was Haraguchi who provided the spark, finding space behind the double pivot of Tomisawa and Nakamachi to run at the Marinos defence. When Koroki lofted a pass towards him on the angle of the box, he cut the ball back first time to the on rushing Nasu, who smashed the ball emphatically into the corner of the net to conclude a wonderful attack.
Reds took the lead on 28 minutes when Makino stabbed high into the net for his third goal of the season after Enomoto had parried Abe’s header from a corner. The home side then began to exert some sustained pressure but were unable to increase their advantage going in to the break.
A high intensity second period saw Marinos continue their short sharp passing combinations, while Urawa opted for a more direct approach, countering with alacrity and switching the point of attack with long range passes.
Shortly after the hour mark, Saito restored parity for Yokohama. He controlled a dropping cross ball from the enterprising Kobayashi and turned on a sixpence to drill a fine right footed effort beyond Kato.
As the game lengthened, Haraguchi continued to impress, his strong running style perfectly suited to counter attacking football. Kashiwagi and Shonzo Koroki also imposed themselves on the Yokohama defence in the early part of the half.
However, Urawa’s defensive frailties were again exposed as they conceded their seventh goal in two games with just eight minutes remaining. Yuzo Kurihara out jumped everyone at the back post to convert a Nakamura corner and despite ageing legs and a recent heavy schedule, Marinos maintained their shape and defensive discipline to see the game out.
Indeed, Marquinhos could have put a further gloss on the scoreline but struck the post in injury time after Makino had been robbed in possession. The Reds centre back possesses many important qualities, the only trouble is, they are frequently undermined by his delusions of adequacy as a libero.
In the aftermath, Marinos remain third, two points behind Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Omiya Aridja, and coach Yasuhiro Higuchi can reflect on a highly satisfactory week as the league again goes into cold storage. Urawa Reds drop to fourth, five points off the pace. Popovic will hope to bounce back from a poor run of results which has yielded just one win in five and cast a shadow over their title aspirations.
Elsewhere reigning champions Sanfrecce extended their recent run of good form with a comfortable win away to Vegalta Sendai as they leap frogged Omiya Ardija at the summit of the table. Last seasons top scorer and MVP Hisato Sato, again overlooked by Zaccheroni for the national side, scored for the thirteenth time this season. Naoki Ishihara got the other goal in a 2-0 victory.
Omiya Ardija lost their second game in a row as Kawasaki Frontale followed up last weeks impressive performance with a 3-2 win. Kobayashi put the away side ahead only for the squirrels to respond through Suzuki and Hasegawa. Okube scored his twelfth of the season to level and the ever impressive Renato sealed victory five minutes into stoppage time.
Ventforet Kofu slumped to a sixth defeat on the spin as they were given a 4-1 hiding by FC Tokyo. The evening held early promise for the visitors as they scored in the opening minute through Kazuki Hiramoto. Lucas drew the gas men level before the roof caved in on Kofu late in the second half. Kazuma Watanabe registered his eleventh and twelfth goals of the season, either side of a strike from Serbian Nemanja Vucicevic. The first half of the season has been somewhat underwhelming for Tokyo fans who will hope their recent upturn in form can be maintained.
In other results, Kashiwa Reysol left it late to grab an equaliser in their 2-2 home draw with Shimizu S-Pulse while Cerezo Osaka condemned Sagan Tosu to another defeat with a 4-1 victory. Kashima Anters and Jubilo Iwata shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Kashima Soccer stadium while Shonan Bellmare failed to build on their weekend victory over Kofu with a 2-0 home reverse to Albirex Niigata. Bottom team Oita Trinita ended the first half of the campaign with only one win from seventeen league matches as they lost 2-1 at home to Nagoya Grampus, who remain in twelfth place in the table.
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