Reds stun Kawasaki to reach Asian fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Urawa Reds scored three goals in a 15-minute blitz to floor Ja­panese ri­vals Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 in a fiery en­counter yes­ter­day and reach the Asian Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nals. Slove­nian Zla­tan Lju­bi­jan­kic, Brazil­ian Rafael Silva and Toshiyuki Tak­agi all scored late goals against 10-man Kawasaki as the home side over­turned a two-goal deficit to win 5-4 on ag­gre­gate. The Reds, who won Asia’s premier club com­pe­ti­tion in 2007, will face China’s Shang­hai SIPG in the last four af­ter a see-saw strug­gle.

Brazil­ian Elsinho put Kawasaki in front af­ter 19 min­utes, flick­ing the ball home af­ter a comic er­ror from goal­keeper Shusaku Nishikawa to stretch their lead to three goals af­ter win­ning the first leg 3-1.

But Shinzo Koroki pulled one back for Urawa in the 35th minute be­fore the tie took a dra­matic twist mo­ments later when Frontale de­fender Shin­taro Ku­ru­maya was sent off for a high boot that caught Koroki in the face.

At times it ap­peared that both teams were more in­ter­ested in fisticuffs and rolling on the ground in mock agony than play­ing foot­ball, while sev­eral shots were more of a threat to low-fly­ing air­craft than the goal­keep­ers. But when sub­sti­tute Lju­bi­jan­kic headed Urawa’s sec­ond of the night to make it 4-3 on ag­gre­gate, Kawasaki be­gan to look frayed and a Rafael Silva bul­let lev­elled the tie on 83 min­utes.

As Kawasaki wilted in the hu­mid con­di­tions, Tak­agi’s shin con­nected with an at­tempted left-foot vol­ley two min­utes later and the ball looped over goal­keeper Jung Sung-Ry­ong for a dra­matic win­ner. “To be hon­est, that goal wasn’t 100 per­cent how I planned to hit it but it went in so I’ll take it,” said Tak­agi sheep­ishly. “We’ve come this far so we have to make sure we reach the fi­nal now.”

Urawa, cur­rently eighth in the J-League ta­ble, face An­dre Vil­las-Boas’s Shang­hai side away on Septem­ber 27 in the first leg of their semi-fi­nal. The re­turn fix­ture will be played on Oc­to­ber 18. Ja­panese sides have strug­gled in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League since Urawa’s vic­tory in 2007 and Gamba Osaka’s tri­umph a year later, and Shang­hai SIPG will go into the semi-fi­nal as firm favourites. — AFP

SAITAMA: Kawasaki Frontale de­fender Ed­uardo (L) kicks the ball next to Urawa Reds de­fender Ry­ota Mori­waki (R) dur­ing the AFC Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter fi­nal match be­tween Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale in Saitama yes­ter­day. — AFP

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