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Reds denied chance to improve standing

Kyodo

Urawa Reds missed the chance to make up ground on Nagoya Grampus at the top of the standings after the Asian club champions were held to a surprise 0-0 draw by local rivals Omiya Ardija in the J. League on Sunday.

Yuichiro Nagai nearly snatched victory in the waning moments of a tightly contested Saitama derby but the Reds had to settle for a point as their four-match winning streak in the league came to an end.

The result kept Urawa in fifth place in the table tied with Yokohama F. Marinos on 13 points from seven games, six behind Grampus who came from behind to beat bottom club JEF United Chiba 3-2 on Saturday. Omiya are in seventh spot, two points further off the pace.

In the day’s only other fixture, Jubilo Iwata were held 1-1 by Oita Trinita, Hiroki Bandai’s 55th-minute goal canceling out Roberto’s opener at Yamaha Stadium.

At Saitama Stadium 2002, Urawa shaded the opening period and Naohiro Takahara went close to opening his Reds account after a clever run, but his powerful drive was beaten away by Koji Ezumi five minutes before the interval.

Shin Kanazawa spurned a great chance at the other end after being picked out by Daigo Kobayashi and then stung Ryota Tsuzuki’s palms from distance moments later.

Denis Marques hit the post with a curling shot from the edge of the box and Omiya looked the more likely team to break the deadlock in the second period after producing some patient approach play.

Nagai nearly won it for the Reds in the dying stages when he met a Tadaaki Hirakawa cross, only for his header to come crashing down off the crossbar and into the arms of a relieved Ezumi.

“I thought we started well and controlled the first half,” said Urawa manager Gert Engels. “We had chances and Takahara went close with that shot but we lost our rhythm in the second half and were too often second to the ball.”

“I think the players showed enough heart to win it but at the end of the day you can’t be satisfied because it has finished 0-0.”