SAITAMA – Urawa Reds restarted their season on an emphatic note Sunday, pummeling J. League champion Nagoya Grampus 3-0 in their home opener and handing Zeljko Petrovic his first win as manager for the former Asian champion.
In an unusually uninspiring performance from Dragan Stojkovic’s Grampus, Marcio Richardes and Tatsuya Tanaka struck during the first half before Genki Haraguchi bagged Urawa’s third after the break.
Petrovic, the former West Ham United assistant who played for Reds from 1997 to 2000, beat Stojkovic in their first meeting as coaches. The two were teammates on Yugoslavia’s 1998 World Cup squad.
“I’m very pleased with the performance of my team, especially the pressing in the first half,” said Petrovic. “All our players fought with a samurai spirit.
“I’m thrilled to see us compete the way we did against one of the best teams in the J. League. I hope we can keep this up.”
Stojkovic, whose team was coming off a midweek away win over FC Seoul in the Asian Champions League, offered no excuses for the lopsided defeat.
“A very hard game for us, definitely,” Stojkovic said. “Even 3-0 is a good result for us. It could have been much worse for us.
“Defensively, offensively, we were not good. I couldn’t recognize my team. We played very bad today and we deserved to lose. We couldn’t control the ball, easy balls. When you make these technical mistakes, you pay the price — and we paid the price.”
Added Grampus striker Josh Kennedy, “We didn’t really come, did we? We didn’t really start well. They came out with a lot of pressure and a lot of fighting which is what we wanted to do.
“They wanted it more. They fought more, they kicked more, they ran more. And that’s why they won the game.”
Reds, who lost their season opener 1-0 at Vissel Kobe on March 6, capitalized on Nagoya’s lethargy right from the start, feeding off the energy of a Saitama Stadium crowd of 42,767 to take a two-goal lead into halftime.
Marcio Richardes, the Brazilian import from Albirex Niigata, opened his Urawa account in the 12th minute after Tanaka lashed out at the Nagoya goal.
Reigning league MVP Seigo Narazaki parried away the stinging effort, but Marcio Richardes mopped up the loose ball.
Tanaka himself made it 2-0 after 25 minutes when the hosts linked superbly over the last third of the pitch.
The visitors tried to claw their way back into the game in the second half, but Haraguchi virtually killed off all hopes of a Nagoya comeback with his first goal of the campaign in the 78th minute.
The match marked Nagoya defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s return to Saitama as a member of Grampus, who he signed with in 2010 after six seasons at Urawa. The center-back did not make the trip to Saitama last year because of a suspension.
Sunday was also Tulio’s 30th birthday.
“It’s turned out to be a horrible birthday,” he said. “It’s always great to play in front of these fans here. It’s a shame, because I was so pumped up to win today.”
Elsewhere in J1, Sanfrecce Hiroshima thrashed Gamba Osaka 4-1 at the Big Arch through goals by Tadanari Lee, Koji Morisaki, Mihael Mikic and Hisato Sato.
Albirex drew 1-1 at home to Jubilo Iwata, while Montedio and Cerezo Osaka fought to a goalless draw in Yamagata.