YOKOHAMA — Yokohama F. Marinos handed Urawa Reds an opening day shock on Saturday with a 1-0 win that made sure Reds started the 2008 J. League season as badly as they finished 2007.
Urawa had been hoping for a win at the stadium where it threw away the title on the final day of last season, but a second-half goal from Takanobu Komiyama handed an impressive Marinos side three well-deserved points in front of a crowd of 61,246.
Reds’ star strikers Naohiro Takahara and Edmilson made little impact as Yokohama’s midfield cut off their supply line, and not even a second-half red card for Marinos’ Roni on his debut could rouse Urawa into action.
Reds manager Holger Osieck threw on two extra attackers in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the game, but a lack of ideas in the final attacking third allowed Marinos to close out the game comfortably.
Osieck expressed his disappointment at making a losing start, but put the defeat down to ring-rust.
“It was not the start that we expected,” he said.
“It could be observed that we are still in a very early part of the season, although there are still some aspects we have to improve on. That’s normal for this part of the season, but I think we shouldn’t have lost this game.
“We tried everything. We introduced two more attacking players but we couldn’t break the very solid Marinos defense.”
Marinos coach Takashi Kuwahara was understandably in better spirits following his first win in charge of his new team.
“The players really wanted to win today,” he said.
“They concentrated for the whole 90 minutes, and that saw us through. I didn’t have to tell them anything, and I am very grateful to them.”
Komiyama struck in the 61st minute after a fluffed clearance by Keisuke Tsuboi handed the ball to Hayuma Tanaka to cross for his waiting teammate.
“The goal came from a very unfortunate clearance, but it is over now and we can’t change anything any more,” Osieck said.
“The only thing we can do is look ahead and be ready for the next game. It takes four, five or six weeks to get into your normal playing rhythm.”
Marinos took the game to Reds from the first whistle, concentrating play down the left wing as Koji Yamase and Lopes established a foothold in midfield.
Reds defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka had to be alert to cut out a Yamase chance 10 minutes into the game, while Urawa’s much-vaunted new strike force of Takahara and Edmilson found itself starved of service at the other end.
Marinos attacker Roni headed a good chance wide after 19 minutes, before Lopes shot over the bar minutes later, but a lack of cutting edge from the home side was in danger of letting the good start go to waste.
Roni’s frustration boiled over shortly before halftime as he was booked for a wild swipe at Takahiro Soma, in what could easily have been interpreted as a sending-off offense.
But Marinos stuck to the task after the interval, with the blossoming midfield partnership of Yamase and Lopes giving Urawa a torrid time.
Takahara, on the other hand, was still struggling to impose himself, and a shot at goal that looked headed for a throw-in was the best the former Eintracht Frankfurt man could muster.
Komiyama showed him how it was done on the hour mark, collecting Tanaka’s cross after Tsuboi’s mistake to fire Marinos into the lead.
The goal was no less than Yokohama deserved, and more good work down the flanks from the fullbacks suggested more was still to come.
But Marinos’ attentions were soon forced toward more pragmatic matters, as the disappointing Roni was shown a red card for a second bookable offense and Reds brought on Yuichiro Nagai and Tatsuya Tanaka to form an all-out four-man attack.
Yokohama introduced Daisuke Sakata in an effort to fight fire with fire, and coach Kuwahara’s swashbuckling attitude paid off as his side continued to pin Reds back in their own half.
Urawa’s attack looked devoid of ideas when the ball did come its way, and the home team’s solid defense held firm to see out an impressive opening win.