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Despotovic goal delivers victory for Reds against Reysol

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Urawa Reds beat Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 on Saturday to leave the reigning J. League champions still searching for their first win of the new season.

Reysol clinched their first-ever title at Saitama Stadium on the final day of last year’s campaign, but Urawa ensured there would be no happy return thanks to a 36th-minute goal from striker Ranko Despotovic.

Reysol conceded an injury-time equalizer to draw 3-3 with Yokohama F. Marinos in last weekend’s league opener — after losing to Thailand’s Buriram United in the Asian Champions League — but manager Nelsinho is refusing to press the panic button just yet.

“This year we haven’t had good results, but I think we are getting better with each game,” the Brazilian said.

“We didn’t get the result today, but I think this was our best performance yet. If we carry on like this, then results will follow.”

Despotovic’s goal gave Urawa its first home league win since July 23, and new manager Mihailo Petrovic is hoping he will not have to wait so long to celebrate another.

“We weren’t able to play the kind of football we wanted losing to Sanfrecce Hiroshima last week, but the positive thing I took from that game was the way the players kept going until the end,” he said.

“We would have liked to play nicer football today, and we are very much a work in progress. But the players were absolutely determined to get the win.”

Urawa’s Tomoaki Makino and Yosuke Kashiwagi both went close in quick succession midway through the first half, but the warning went unheeded as Despotovic pounced for the opener. The Serbian capitalized on a clumsy first touch from Jorge Wagner close to goal, before cutting inside to fire a left-foot strike past Takanori Sugeno.

“I tried to control it, but in a dangerous area like that you just have to clear it,” Wagner said. “Their striker was very clever in reading what I was going to do, and he finished it well.”

Wagner lashed a free kick over the bar moments later, and compatriot Leandro Domingues went even closer when he hit the woodwork early in the second half.

But Reysol struggled to create chances as time wore on, and had Sugeno not denied Genki Haraguchi with a fantastic point-blank save in the 69th minute, the damage could have been even greater.

“We were looking to hit them on the counterattack, but our opponents had the same idea,” said Nelsinho. “It’s a disappointing result. Urawa defended very well and that made it difficult for us to get an equalizer. But in football this is what happens when you don’t take your chances.”

Elsewhere in the J. League, Cerezo Osaka edged city rivals Gamba Osaka 2-1 thanks to a 94th-minute goal from Kempes, Kawasaki Frontale beat Kashima Antlers 1-0 to pick up their second win of the season, and Vegalta Sendai also stayed perfect with a 2-0 win over Marinos.

Omiya Ardija came from behind to beat Albirex Niigata 2-1, Shimizu S-Pulse edged Sanfrecce 2-1, while Vissel Kobe beat Consadole Sapporo and Jubilo Iwata also got the better of Sagan Tosu by the same scoreline. In the day’s late game, FC Tokyo defeated Nagoya Grampus 3-2.