There has been a profoundly negative mood around Urawa Reds since a small section of their fans displayed a racist banner at the Saitama stadium last month. Last weeks defeat to Vissel Kobe compounded the feeling and added to the disappointment of the previous round when Reds suffered the indignity of playing out a draw with Shimizu S-Pulse in an empty stadium.
This victory over Sendai, achieved thanks to four brilliantly executed goals from Tadanari Lee (2), Ugajin and Suzuki, will help clear the depressive fog that threatened to engulf the club, but for Vegalta and their Australian coach Graham Arnold, the season is rapidly becoming turning into a nightmare.
Second bottom of the league and without a win to their name, having conceded 13 goals and scored only 2, fans of J1’s most northerly club must yearn for the glory days of 2012, when they finished the league campaign as runners up. For his part Arnold insists the club are in a transitional phase – he is trying to lower the average age of the group and is scouring J2 for promising recruits – but the reality is that he is teetering on the brink a few months into his tenure. Results will dictate whether he is afforded adequate time to implement his plans.
Until the first goal, a great finish from ex-Southampton striker Lee, Sendai had aquitted themselves fairly well with Ryang and Wilson enjoying decent spells of possession in the opposition half. The roof caved in on them in the second half however and Reds, who in truth should have scored seven or eight, capitalised on Sendai’s disintegration.
Haraguchi and Makino both cracked the frame of the goal and Lee also missed two extraordinary opportunities either side of his exceptional goals, squandering an empty net from close range in both occassions.
His second goal was beautifully crafted and he provided a delicate chip to complete a superb move. Tomoya Ugajin created space in the box with a neat stepover and curled a terrific finish into the far corner for the third before sub Keita Suzuki despatched a 25 yard thunderbolt beyond goalkeeper Seki, who actually had a very good game despite the emphatic nature of the scoreline.
Urawa Reds sit sixth in the table, happy to be making headlines for their on field performance, while Sendai remain in a desperate situation having harvested only two points from their opening six fixtures. Next weeks match at home to Sagan Tosu already has the appearance of a must win encounter for under pressure Arnold.
Tokushima Vortis 0-4 Kawasaki Frontale
Ventforet Kofu 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 Cerezo Osaka
Albirex Niigata 0-0 Yokihama F Marinos
Omiya Ardija 0-3 Vissel Kobe
FC Tokyo 2-1 Sagan Tosu
Nagoya Grampus 2-5 Sanfrecce Hirishima
Gamba Osaka 0-2 Kashima Antlers
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