KAWASAKI – Urawa Reds stretched their unbeaten run to eight J. League games and dented Kawasaki Frontale’s title hopes into the bargain with a 1-0 win on Saturday night.
Reds went into the match having risen to 12th in the table following a disastrous start to the season, and a 10th-minute own goal from Kawasaki’s Takanobu Komiyama put them in the driving seat at a rain-slick Todoroki Stadium.
The Saitama side continued to control the game despite a second-half revival from title-chasing Frontale, and the final result dropped the home side 10 points off the championship pace as league-leading Yokohama F. Marinos beat Omiya Ardija 2-1.
“We were going for the win and we didn’t play particularly badly, but we weren’t able to go that extra step and score a goal,” said Frontale manager Naoki Soma. “It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to win at home, but you get results like this in football.”
Reds’ win gives them a season double over Frontale after a 2-0 win in Saitama earlier this month, and manager Zeljko Petrovic was thrilled to see his team gaining momentum after taking just three points from its opening five fixtures.
“These are three very important points to take from a strong team like Frontale,” said the Montenegrin. “We haven’t lost for 10 games now if you include the two matches we played in the Nabisco Cup, and the players have been really excellent.
“This is great for the club, for the players and for the fans. We have done the double over Frontale, 2-0 in Saitama and then 1-0 here.”
The match was only 10 minutes old when Yosuke Kashiwagi sent a deliciously weighted pass forward for Marcio Richardes to chase, and the Brazilian’s run was enough to panic Komiyama into sticking out a foot and poking the ball past a startled Takashi Aizawa.
The visitors continued to enjoy the majority of possession, but Koji Yamase spurned the chance to take Frontale into halftime on level terms when he headed a Kyohei Noborizato cross over the bar in the 45th minute.
Frontale talisman Kengo Nakamura came off the bench after the interval, and the home side began the second period with far more attacking gusto as Noborizato and Yu Kobayashi both launched attempts on the Urawa goal.
Referee Hajime Matsuo waved away Reds’ claims for a penalty when Genki Haraguchi tumbled over Aizawa, but Kawasaki hit straight back as fullback Yusuke Tasaka cracked a free kick against the crossbar in the 58th minute.
Reds goalkeeper Nobuhiro Kato did well to deny Yusuke Tanaka with the match moving into the final 10 minutes, and the rookie again excelled himself when he punched clear a drive from Komiyama minutes later as Urawa held on for the win.
Elsewhere in the J. League, Gamba Osaka kept up the pressure on Marinos with a 2-1 win over Jubilo Iwata, while Vissel Kobe survived a fightback from Ventforet Kofu to claim a 4-2 victory.
Albirex Niigata beat Montedio Yamagata 1-0 to take three valuable points from a basement battle, while Tadanari Lee took his scoring tally for the season to nine with a double in Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s 4-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse.
Bradley named U.S. coach
Now that the U.S. Soccer federation’s perennial coach-in-waiting finally has the job, Juergen Klinsmann will be expected to kick-start a stagnant men’s national team.
The USSF moved quickly Friday in hiring Klinsmann a day after the firing of Bob Bradley.
The former standout player and coach for the German national team will be a familiar name to American fans. The U.S. almost hired Klinsmann twice — first after the 2006 World Cup and again last year before giving Bradley what turned out to be a short-lived contract extension.
Klinsmann will be introduced Monday at a news conference in New York. His first game as U.S. coach is Aug. 10 against Mexico in an exhibition in Philadelphia.
Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins next June.
“He is a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the program,” USSF President Sunil Gulati said. “Juergen has had success in many different areas of the game, and we look forward to the leadership he will provide on and off the field.”
Klinsmann is the first non-American to coach the national team since Bora Milutinovic (1991-95), who was succeeded by Steve Sampson (1995-98), Bruce Arena (1998-06) and Bradley.
Former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, who worked alongside Klinsmann for ESPN at last year’s World Cup, expects him to inject energy, but notes he’s not a miracle worker.